The two biggest bands of the century couldn't be more disparate.
Canada's Nickelback is proudly and dunderheadedly macho while England's Coldplay is strikingly and hopelessly feminine (the musical equivalent of chick flicks). Nickelback's frontman Chad Kroeger is all about drinking and getting laid. Coldplay's Chris Martin is all about emotions and caring about everything from relationships to world economic issues. In concert, Nickelback is all about pyro and explosions while Coldplay is about colors and confetti.
In fact, Coldplay couldn't wait to shower the confetti Friday at Xcel Energy Center. Most headliners save it for the end of the evening, but Coldplay fired the confetti cannons during the night's third selection, "In My Place." (By the way, the confetti was in the shape of butterflies, hearts, flowers, exclamation points, etc.) During the fifth number, giant multicolored balloons filled the arena. But the coolest special effect started on the very first song, "Mylo Xyloto," the title cut of Coldplay's current blockbuster album.
Every concertgoer was given a special wristband in a half-dozen different colors that blinked to the beat of the music (thanks to remote radio controls). The arena turned into a ginormous Lite Brite flickerathon as circles of day-glo colored lights flashed onstage, as well, along with various colors of laser lights.
The first 15 minutes of the concert were more like a finale. In fact, this was more visually exciting than the Olympics Opening Ceremony.
While the special effects certainly invigorated the 15,000 fans, they didn't completely overshadow the music. No major rock band is more eager to please than Coldplay. The quartet borrows majesty from U2, arty sonics from Radiohead and pure poppyness from the Beatles to create a bright, shiny, breathtakingly pretty sound. Then factor in the hyper exuberance of the athletic Martin and you've got the most over-the-top pop band in the universe.
Coldplay is the only band that turns love ballads into anthems. That happened Friday with "Yellow," the group's 2000 breakthrough hit, and "Paradise," a hit from the current album.
Coldplay is easily the most jovial band from across the pond. Martin, 35, and company simply sold happiness and positivity -- whether he was talking about a merger of the U.S. and U.K. water polo teams, promising to party like it's 1999 (without mentioning Prince) or standing in the bowl end among the crowd to play the first encore.
The 95-minute set may have seemed front-loaded with hits and bogged down by two consecutive ballads played on the end of the runway. But the bouncy "Viva La Vida," the elegantly lovely "Clocks" and the soaring, bracelet-blinking finale of "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall" with its ringing U2-like guitar were highlights from the second half.
With this tour (which concludes its North American leg Saturday in St. Paul), Coldplay hasn't shaken the albatross of comparison to U2. But they've demonstrated that they, not Nickelback, deserve to be the halftime entertainment at the next Super Bowl. Or why wait? How about Sunday's closing Olympics ceremonies?
Set list: www.startribune.com/artcetera. Twitter: @jonbream • 612-673-1719