Pulsing lights. Fireworks. A glowing display made up of fan-worn bracelets. Stage presence and songs you forgot you knew. At a nearly sold-out Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Coldplay delivered what many seem to be looking for these days: an experience.
Was it “one of the best nights of our lives on a Tuesday,” as lead singer Chris Martin promised the cheering crowd? No, but it was fun.
Even before the British rock band took the stage, the draw of their only Florida show could be seen in the milelong line of cars clogging Dale Mabry Highway. Antsy fans jogged to seats already wearing tour merch. Some had driven from Orlando for the show, others close to the area scored last-minute tickets. Mostly families and elder millennials sat baking in the late evening heat, but fans younger than some of Coldplay’s biggest hits peppered the crowd, too.
No matter their age, it seemed many favored Coldplay’s older repertoire, like “Viva La Vida,” “Clocks” and “The Scientist.” A self-proclaimed BTS army member looked forward to “Universe,” the recent hit the bands collaborated on. Fewer seemed to know songs from the album the band was touring, the 2021 “Music of the Spheres.” Coldplay pleased them all, playing songs new and old, but not before a stellar opening set from R&B singer H.E.R.
H.E.R. embodied the rock presence Coldplay has slowly abandoned over the years. Her Ozzy Osbourne-esque sunglasses, all-black getup and bright red lipstick paired seamlessly with sensational vocal runs and impressive guitar solos. She played hits like “Slide,” “Come Through” and “Best Part” to a warm reception.
Before the main event, a short film explained Coldplay’s efforts to shrink the carbon footprint of their tour and support green efforts across the world. This included bikes and kinetic panels in the floor section urging attendees to help generate energy by riding or dancing. The crowd cheered as the giant video screens displayed the movements the band supports, from slowing deforestation and cleaning up oceans to climate justice law.
But nothing could top the energy and excitement of a practically full stadium jumping to their feet as the main act took to the stage and opened with “Higher Power.” Wristbands, passed out to audience members before the show, flashed to the rhythm, creating a constellation of colors and shapes using the crowd as its canvas. Fireworks exploded over three massive video screens as confetti showered the floor. When a band like Coldplay, which has been around for over two decades, can still fill a stadium and keep fans on their feet for a whole show, it’s because they have the resources to pull out all the stops.
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Martin, with his tie-dye shirt and exaggerated movements, passed giant beach balls into the pit and was the overexcited bar mitzvah DJ personified. But it worked. The band amped up with “Paradise” and fans sang the lyrics right back to them. “The Scientist” seemed to particularly resonate, the voices of the audience reaching a peak at “No one ever said it would be so hard.” A collective sigh of relief and renewed energy came next with the opening notes of “Viva La Vida.” And on it went.
Some songs, mostly from the newer albums, had the crowd taking a brief rest. But the energy stayed high, especially toward the end as Martin brought a couple to the stage and helped a man propose with a short rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” (She said yes; how could you not?) The band earned some laughs, too, with a kitschy tune called “Tampa Bay on a Tuesday” that poked fun at the region and Tom Brady.
The takeaway: Coldplay is one of the most seasoned bands in the world, and they’ve clung to relevancy in myriad ways: smart marketing, beneficial collaborations and widespread appeal. The band promises a high production value and an entertaining show, a night out and a couple of hours of escapism. They steered clear of politics beyond asking people to keep Ukraine, Uvalde and Buffalo in their thoughts, adding to their likability with a sustainability angle and a promise to plant a tree for every ticket bought.
Coldplay may be inching further and further away from who they were in 2000 when “Yellow” launched them into popularity, but they made leaving the house after a long day on a balmy Tuesday night worth it.