Coldplay takes a lot of hits for being overly gushy, overly sensitive, overly over the top-top-top. And yet, as the oh-so-emotional Brit-poppers showed at a packed, roaring Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday, they're sincere in their swoony manipulations.
In other words, the best-selling Grammy winners believe every sappy seduction they sing.
For almost two robust hours, Chris Martin & Co. wore their hearts on their sleeves, and the quartet demanded that the near-sold-out crowd of 18,402 did as well. Well, at least on their wrists.
Each ticket came with a Xyloband, a blinking bracelet synced with much of the anthemic 21-song set list, which never lacked for crescendoes and sing-alongs and lead singer Martin pointing into the nosebleeds as if he were nasally crooning for them, just them.
With all the lights and lasers and neon kapow, the joint looked like the most mellow rave in history — or maybe Christmas in June — sparkly-eyed women swaying in unison with their loyal, trying-to-stay-macho dates (who might not admit to their fellow dudes that they dig Coldplay. (It's okay fellas, I really like 'em, too).
Coldplay put on the equivalent of a 21st century embrace.
This is the kind of band that launches confetti three songs into the show.
There were balloons a couple songs later. Seriously, there hasn't been this much stuff launched into a crowd since GWAR roamed the planet.
From the opening number, the instrumental title cut from new album Mylo Xyloto (a concept LP about star-crossed lovers), the band aimed to crowd-please. "We're going to try and play the best (bleepin') show of our lives," Martin said. "We're already having a great time."
Of course they were.
A few of the anthems played like Coldplay Mad Libs. Paradise was cloying, although that was, admittedly, an eye-popping Xyloband moment.
But thanks to underrated guitarist Jonny Buckland and his prickly riffs, more songs than not were altogether rousing.
The one-two punch of The Scientist, a truly devastating breakup tune, and Yellow, their slow-build, hammering first big hit, made for a transcendent tandem.
And God Put a Smile Upon Your Face was an altogether slamming rock song, a true star moment for Buckland.
So eager to please, Coldplay performed on a main stage, then a middle "X" stage, where, with the help of Rihanna on a video screen, they performed gut-check duet Princess of China.
Later, Martin appeared with an acoustic guitar on a makeshift stage smack-dab in the middle of the throngs toward the back of the venue, playing Us Against the World and Speed of Sound.
For the encore — more lasers! more Xylobands! — the band, always bouncing these blokes, unloaded a steroidal Clocks (awesome), the utterly Coldplayian Fix You (meh) and the take-this-U2 explosion of Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall.
Oh, it was sweet, and it was sappy.
But hey, in this cynical cynical world, who couldn't use a good hug now and then?
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.