Concert Review: Coldplay Performs Their Best Show Ever

Coldplay on stage in Portland, Oregon
Coldplay and Peter Buck of R.E.M. opened the evening in Portland with “Free Fallin’

On an emotionally charged Monday the day after a mass shooting in Las Vegas at an outdoor country music concert, and on a day America lost a music legend, Coldplay offered a respite from the world to some 20,000 fans who forgot about life for a while.

It was a side trip of sorts for the band’s A Head Full of Dreams tour leaving the large confines of 60,000 seat stadiums for the more intimate and welcoming arena venue in Portland, OR at the Moda Center.

Boy did it pay off.

Coldplay Concert Review

The massively popular foursome rock act from England began the show with a long moment of silence and then along with guitarist Peter Buck of R.E.M. played a rather chilling “Free Fallin’ in honor and now in memory of the iconic Tom Petty who passed away Monday after a heart attack. Singer Chris Martin promised to deliver the best show the band ever played and, indeed, they probably did.


After “Free Fallin’, Coldplay got on with their show starting with “A Head Full of Dreams” the title to track to the band’s most recent full length album.  They followed with their first hit “Yellow” off their debut album Parachutes before visiting Mylo Xyloto, one of their many smash albums, with “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall.”

Coldplay having a good time in Portland at the Moda Center
Coldplay brought confetti and beach balls

The evening was electric from the start as Coldplay worked a near flawless two-hour-plus 23 song set with each beat and note perfectly accentuated. Props to the sound engineer or perhaps it’s the chosen sound system but Martin’s vocals along with Jonny Buckland’s guitar work, Guy Berryman’s bass and Will Champion’s drums all popped without dueling over one another. Even Martin’s occasional acoustic guitar rose from the flood of sounds to add its bit of flavor to the music.

Coldplay methodically intertwined newer fare from the last two not-so-well-received albums with hits and fan favorites from their first five releases. “Paradise” which carries one of the all-time great openings was just as gripping as the album version and featured an awesome finishing remix while the prominent piano to “Clocks” got everyone off their seats. “Birds” reminded just how effective Berryman is on bass guitar taking the opening lead with hopping grooves and driving energy.

Every song this night proved why audiences come out in droves to see the band. The more weepy and less melodic cuts off 2014’s Ghost Stories, which more or less captured Martin’s falling out with then wife Gwynth Paltrow, and the follow up A Head Full Of Dreams that just don’t resonate off the studio versions came thoroughly alive on stage.

Martin delivered a powerful “Everglow” while alone on a secondary smaller stage extending from the main stage into the floor audience and “A Sky Full of Stars” proved why it’s the best track off Ghost Stories as the band closed with a solid “Up&Up” the final song off A Head Full of Dreams.

Coldplay loves throwing confetti
Another Coldplay confetti shower

It wasn’t a totally perfect performance…or evening. Two opening acts including a 45 minute intermission after the final one amounted to nearly three hours! after the scheduled show start before Coldplay took the stage. Martin’s vocals briefly under-whelmed under the weight of the guitar and bass. Towards the end of the show, he also stopped “Something Just Like This,” about 20 seconds in as the band transitioned from a small tertiary stage in the back of the arena to the main stage, admitting he messed up and facetiously asked the mistake not air on YouTube. They restarted and quickly recaptured the magic still in effect from the beginning of the show.

Fans packed the house though an unusual number of empty seats scattered throughout. But considering the band currently sells out, or at last mostly sells out, stadiums like the Rose Bowl (next week) and CenturyLink Field in Seattle (last week) stopping by the meager, in comparison, Moda Center offered a real treat.

Because smaller works and Coldplay comes across better indoors.

In many respects, Coldplay feels much like U2. People either love them or hate them. Considering both embarked on a stadium tour this year, clearly the passionate easily outweigh the scoffers.

As for me, the love hate relationship with Coldplay began in 2009.

That’s when I saw them for the first time and had one of those moments while waiting for the big lights to drop thinking, “Wow, I’m seeing Coldplay.” Three songs later I was thoroughly bored and totally unimpressed.

Prior to that, I felt, perhaps hoped, Coldplay carried the mantle of premier rock act that would help replace the aging and retiring stars of the 70s and 80s. (Foo Fighters in full control here.) If you listened to much of their first five albums perhaps we have something in agreement.

I swore I’d never see them again but the next time in town they played at the Rose Garden (now Moda Center) instead of the Ridgefield Amphitheater (It’s not actually called that but the name changes seemingly every year so it’s easier to call it by the city it resides in) in Washington where I saw them the first time.  And because of the great Mylo Xyloto it was easy to overlook the previous shed show. I also hoped they would recreate “Paradise” live as solid as the album version. So, I gave them a second chance.

It was fantastic.

I couldn’t wait for the next album and tour.

Then they released Ghost Stories and of course A Head Full of Dreams. For years Coldplay dazzled us with often emotional chords and sometimes tear jerking lyrics – on full display this night with “In My Place” and “Fix You.” They emerged from this melodious transitory funk incorporating upbeat tempos attached to immensely pleasurable harmonies towards seemingly borderline muzak at worst and at best theme songs for a tentpole.

Despite that, I jumped on the opportunity to see them again at the Moda Center, a venue a third the size of the massive stadium visits on this tour. Then after I bought my $200 ticket for the 300 level they cut they price in half.

All is forgiven.

Coldplay A Head Full of Dreams Setlist in Portland, OR

  1. Free Fallin’
  2. A Head Full of Dreams
  3. Yellow
  4. Every Teardrop is a Waterfall
  5. The Scientist
  6. Birds
  7. Paradise
  8. Always in My Head
  9. Magic
  10. Everglow
  11. Clocks
  12. Midnight
  13. Charlie Brown
  14. Hymn for the Weekend
  15. Fix You
  16. Viva La Vida
  17. Adventure of a Lifetime
  18. In My Place
  19. Don’t Panic
  20. Us Against the World
  21. Something Just Like This
  22. A Sky Full of Stars
  23. Up&Up

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