21 July 2009

Viva la vida, pt. 2

Confetti cannons. Balloons. Band members romping through the audience. Good music. What's not to like?

Okay, getting there could have been a little easier, but we could have done that a simpler way, knowing the venue and the area as we do.

I wasn't in any particular hurry to get into the show. I knew there were two opening acts, and I'm completely spoiled by 3-hour long "Evening with..." events. While I've seen some openers that were actually better than the headliners, the last thing I wanted to listen to was the complaining of the three people attending with me.

It took a full hour to get off the freeway and into the amphitheater parking lot. Then there was security, tickets and the hike up to the amphitheater itself. The spouse was clearly quite grumpy about the whole thing, so the daughter and I abandoned him and the son so they could find the beverages of their choice, while we did the wise female thing (restroom) and then headed up to our seats.

Along the way, we ran into some people we knew and waved. The daughter was thrilled because people she knew saw that she was at the show!

The day had cooled enough that the daughter was happy she'd brought a sweater, and we settled into our seats to watch the last few songs of the second opening act, enveloped in the damp, slightly swampy smell that is Irvine Meadows.

The kids got slightly restive as the stage was readied for the main event, but finally the house lights went off, a cheer went up, and we saw four figures bounding around with sparklers in their hands. The daughter had her binoculars to hand and suddenly she grabbed me, squealing, "I see him, Mommy! I see Chris Martin!" and she bounced up and down in tiny, excited hops.

I offered up a small prayer of thanksgiving. If my kids were going to ask to see anyone, thank god it was Coldplay and not the 'tween acts of the day.

The Register did a nice review of the show here and I saw that someone posted a good video of "Lovers in Japan" that really gives you the sense of all the paper butterflies those cannons shot into the air. Because, believe me, the cannons were stationed all around the amphitheater and the effect was pretty spectacular. Even the spouse was smiling (well, he was smiling by "Yellow" when huge yellow balloons were loosed all over the place. That was fun, too).

As well, the band had two satellite stages set up, one off stage left, about halfway up the amphitheater, and one off stage right on the lawn. It's nice they're young, because that last one was a heck of a hike, all uphill. They were all squashed together on a tiny platform there on the lawn, which was very funny to watch, particularly the shuffling around what appeared to be a single mic, and it seemed to elicit a few giggles from them, too, as they did acoustic versions of "Green Eyes," "Death Will Never Conquer," "Billie Jean," and something improvisational that Chris Martin laughingly acknowledged was not working.

And because I'm a concert geek, I have to say that the sound was perfect. We were dead center, and the music was crystalline, even the audience-participation bits. (Mr. Martin made it abundantly clear that this was a participatory event and he did expect us to sing, loudly.)

I love going to concerts; the experience of hearing music I enjoy live is unparalleled (providing, of course, the band or orchestra is worth its salt, which isn't always the case), and it's always different. Some bands make you feel as if they are playing for you and you alone; some make you wish they'd checked their egos at the door. Coldplay really worked to engage the audience, and the satellite stages were such a nice touch there. They were very professional, but completely charming, totally exuberant, and periodically hilarious (including an impromptu, rhyming apology for screwing up a chord at the beginning of "42"), with the upshot that the concert felt very intimate despite the fact we were sharing it with about 16,000 other people, and it was really entertaining. My entire crew left beaming and satisfied when the show was over.

The measure of how much I enjoyed it? I'd definitely go see Coldplay again.

Go listen to some good music: "Viva La Vida" from the album Viva La Vida by Coldplay. On the whiplash scale, Coldplay got a zero. Whiplash is reserved for Rush. I bounce at Rush concerts the way the daughter was bouncing at the start of Coldplay.

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