Coldplay’s sad ballads lift up spirits of the masses

By Luke O’Neil
Globe Correspondent / August 4, 2009

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MANSFIELD - For the casual fan seeing Coldplay live for the first time since the band performed at the Paradise in Boston many years (and many millions of accumulated fans) ago, last night’s triumphant two-hour performance at the Comcast Center was like seeing your younger family members for the first time in years. You just can’t stop marveling at how big they’ve gotten.

In a set that reached back to their 2000 breakout album Parachutes, where they first sewed the seeds of their anthemic Brit-rock grandeur, Coldplay flipped through the pages of a hit-rich catalog. With crowd-pleasers like the love drunk “Yellow’’ and the chiming, downtrodden plea of “In My Place,’’ vocalist Chris Martin and company laid down their deviously contradictory m.o., using heartbreak writ largely to buoy the spirits of the masses.

On those two songs in particular, each note of Jonny Buckland’s delay-heavy guitar shimmered and fell like bursting teardrops.

Tears of the literal sort were in abundance as well, particularly on ballads like the resounding organ climb of “Fix You’’ and an acoustic mandolin version of “Green Eyes.’’

The foursome, dressed like a thrift store Sergeant Pepper’s, performed the latter from a satellite stage in the lawn seats before kicking into an ad-libbed blues harmonica jam, a song featuring drummer Will Champion on vocals, and a cute but underwhelming cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.’’

An electronic dance medley of “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face’’ and “Talk’’ changed the tempo considerably, transforming the space into an impromptu dance club - although anyone in attendance looking to keep up with the lithe, yoga-like stretching of Martin’s aerobic pace had their work cut out for them.

The majority of the set was given over to tracks from the band’s winning Viva la Vida. On “Lost’’ Martin sang, “You might be a big fish in a little pond. It doesn’t mean you’ve won.’’ One imagines it’s not easy hitting the right piano keys with your heart weighing so heavily on your sleeves.

For the album’s title track, drummer Champion conjured a marching cavalry with timpani drums and church bells embellishing the song’s rhythmic string section sample attack. None of which managed to distract from the real draw, which is Martin and mates selling the drama like they mean it. Singing songs this sad has rarely seemed like so much fun.

At: Comcast Center, last night

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