Concert Review – Coldplay w/Snow Patrol and The Howling Bells

Coldplay Vancouver

Chris Martin is a show man through and through, and he pulled out every stop for this particular set of Vancouver dates. There were two opening acts to warm up this full stadium, first of the night was the Australian The Howling Bells, followed by the epic rock unit, of Scottish/Irish heritage, Snow Patrol. The night was being filmed for a DVD release, so no extravagance was spared. An evening of confetti, ambitious leads and over the top antics, made for a most memorable time. Although the sound of the main act had a rocky and over saturated final touch, the show as a whole was intense and hung in the higher echelons of rocks greatest. Chris Martin puts on an amazing stage persona and is able to piggy back this monster on his own.

Australian based, female led, The Howling Bells were instrumentally and vocally sound. They were a tight nit group and played a witty banter of musical integrity off each other at every moment. With a Lily Allen vocal styling over a Pixie’esque true 90s alt rock sound, they made for an interesting opener. Even though my line of site was poor, I could clearly see the lead singer carrying herself around the stage in what looked like a heroin induced sway. Although I am sure it was just her style of rhythm release, it drew me in from the first moment. Lyrically and vocally she was as sound as they come, her subtle touches of personal anguish and beautiful expression of happy moments past, were clear, and felt whole hearted and true. With an onslaught of female leads permeating the market, Juanita Stein songbirds a style that is able to touch your soul and yet at the same time it keeps that true music edge. It definitely helps your mind get lost in the music. Her sound is not over the top nor is it purely in support of the music, it is its own energy and wraps the whole things up in a nice neat bow. The band not only played an amazing set, they did so with the basic elements as the warm up band, playing with little to no lighting or supporting effects. After their 45 minute set I sat in awe and reveled in this new discovery.

Soon after the mass had vacated the arena to refill their beverages and purchase large quantities of over priced merchandise, the main opening act attacked the stage. Snow Patrol is by no means a main stay on the opening circuit they could easily play an arena tour and fill every seat with eager music lovers. Their stage presence is over the top, and every song is a true statement. The set list for the night was a best of, with a sprinkle of lesser known b-sides. This band has a true rock essence with a band that can truly over power the lead singer, but somehow Gary Lightbody manages to hold it all together and keep his vocals just out of the drowning zone. I suspect this is what really entices the majority of listeners to the sound they emanate, as they are truly tying the best of all worlds together. At no point do you think the band is taking over and really out doing the lead, but again at the same time you can say that about the vocals. Since this symbiotic relationship seems to harmoniously exist through the entire show and in every song, it becomes their staple and some what of the hook. Again the band played pure, with little to no stage show, just a bunch of chums really having a great time and sharing that with the crowd. Even without a frills and gimmicks approach the ears of the crowd were always facing the stage and they definitely were enjoying everything being broadcast their way. Again after the 45 minute set, the crowd showered them with affection and they slipped through the backdrop to make way for the next act.

Coldplay had this night in the bag before they even stepped on the stage. It didn’t matter what happened they were guaranteed to have a great show. Coldplay is like the new age U2, they carry an arsenal of musical talent but also blow the roof of every show with a plethora of stage magic. This show, like I said, was for a DVD, which is strange because I don’t think I have heard many bands shooting a one off DVD in Vancouver. I am in no way attacking this effort, but found it strange, and in a way was a little thankful it happened. From the moment this knowledge entered my brain, I was sure the night was going to be intense and over done, my eyes were pre-widened to take it all in. The beginning of the show had the band behind a giant mesh curtain, and they were then back lit. This gave the effect of giant silhouettes dancing across the stage, the crowd lost their minds and howled at the spectacle. Soon enough the curtain fell and Chris Martin and Co began their tirade on the stage. Martin was everywhere, running around like an 80s hair metal lead singer, leaping all over. Within the first few songs a series of yellow balloons fell into the audience fell from the roof into the awestruck mass of onlookers. The balls actually made it through a few songs before the were burst by the lower bowl and kept as souvenirs.

To further frill up the night, a series of bulbous screens lowered from the stage and throughout the arena. The images were 360 degrees and made for quite a site. They were like giant 15 foot wide light bulbs but instead of emitting just light they emitted video. This made it possible for every seat in the house to have a giant distorted view of Mr.Martins sweaty emotional face. Although I may sound a little perturbed by the whole thing, i was completely fascinated and enthralled with the effect. I look forward to seeing more acts use this technique. The show carried on, with several other big moments and even bigger effects. Chris and crew hiked across the floor and stood mid level of the lower bowl opposite the end of the stage. From here Martin took the audience through a short ride of anecdotal stories. At one point he commanded the audience to turn their cell phones on and shine the light upwards. He then started a glowing arena wave, which circled around while he sang an entire song. The visual of this was astonishing and soon enough the wave was followed with the flash of inexperienced photographers trying their damnedest to capture the event. Shortly after the band came screaming back to the stage and a brief 5 minute interlude took place. Perhaps not even foreseen, but none the less the short break was well deserved after their valiant effort.

The night was started off with Martin struggling to keep the vocals tight. Eventually though he powered every verse, and had the audience palm fed. To top off the antics lasers poked up here and there through the night, accompanied by butterfly shaped confetti, and an abundance of strong single color wash lighting. The entire night want off without a hitch and the show eventually powered down. Not a unhappy face in the bunch between crowd and act. Every moment of the night was extremely powerful and as it should, with this being a DVD release it had to be surreal. I would advise anyone who hasnt to get out to a Coldplay show, they are over the top and make for an amazing night. You arent let down in anyway if you are out to see a great performance by a top notch band. If you are however there as an audiophile, perhaps check that hat at the door and just enjoy yourself. The band is by no means breaking any barriers, they themselves said they are more a “limestone n roll” band as opposed to a rock n roll band. All in all the greatest part for me was the two opening acts, but I appreciated the intensity and effort of Coldplay, and have to admit by the end I was enthralled by the whole thing.

Happy Concerting….

Jamie Taylor

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