Climate Pledge Arena
October 22, 2021
The situation was friendly but daunting. Just hours earlier, a slew of noteworthy stakeholders, from businessmen (Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy) to sports executives (NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Seattle Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke) to public officials (Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee) had cut the ribbon for Climate Pledge Arena, the renovated, carbon-neutral arena at Seattle Center in the heart of the Emerald City.
Bruce Bennett / Getty Images – Making the Cut
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, flanked by luminaries including Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Seattle Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke, cuts the ribbon at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena on Oct. 22, 2021.
Thousands of fans streamed into the arena – on the street-level upper concourse – making their way below ground to the arena’s bowl, encountering high-tech concessions, including shops deploying Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, and a bevy of other impressive features before arriving at their seats.
The moment would’ve overshadowed most artists, and with good reason. But most artists aren’t Coldplay.
A week removed from the release of its ninth studio album, the cosmically poppy Music of the Spheres, and the announcement of an eco-friendly 2022 stadium tour to support it, the British band took the stage at Climate Pledge Arena for the venue’s first public concert, wowing thousands in the room – and countless more around the world via a free livestream hosted by Amazon Music and Twitch – with a stunning visual spectacle and a parade of two decades’ worth of hits.
But, as frontman Chris Martin explained halfway through the show, Coldplay was just happy to be there – there being America.
“Thank you for the visas,” he quipped from his piano bench, alluding to the tight, pandemic-related travel restrictions. “Getting into America is not easy, even if you’re soft-rock superstars.”
Notably, Martin characterized Coldplay as “soft-rock” immediately after “People of the Pride,” a Spheres cut that’s more Muse than mellow and is easily one of the most aggressive songs in Coldplay’s generally easygoing catalog.
“It’s our only real rock song,” he said. “We get punked up and have to go back to early Coldplay.”
To wit: Coldplay followed “People of the Pride” with “Everything’s Not Lost,” the sweet, sweeping closer from the band’s decidedly soft-rock 2000 debut album Parachutes.
The transition encapsulated Coldplay’s challenge as the band enters middle age. Like The Rolling Stones and U2, the spectacle-chasing British stadium rockers whose playbooks Coldplay seems to keep at hand, the band now has more hits than it can squeeze into a concert, not to mention a deep arsenal of album cuts like “Everything’s Not Lost” that it can bust out at any moment.
New material like “People of the Pride” inevitably creates opportunity cost: The band’s Climate Pledge setlist omitted 2005’s “Speed of Sound,” the fourth-highest charting song on the Hot 100 of its career, and other hits like “Trouble,” “In My Place” and “Violet Hill.” Everyday Life, Coldplay’s excellent and eclectic 2019 album, was ignored entirely.
But while a third of the night’s setlist was comprised by Spheres material – including bubbly show opener “Higher Power” and the encore-less set’s proggy 10-minute closer “Coloratura” – Coldplay made the other 11 songs count, displaying its versatility as it swung from 2000 strummer “Yellow” to 2008’s booming “Viva la Vida” to the compulsively danceable 2015 single “Adventure of a Lifetime,” the night’s unexpected highlight. The band repeatedly alluded to early shows at 1,150-capacity Seattle club The Showbox, and paid homage to the city with a cover of “Nothingman” by hometown heroes Pearl Jam.
Every step of the way, Climate Pledge Arena – a relative underplay for Coldplay, which will exclusively play stadiums in 2022 – facilitated the band’s world-class, eye-popping production. Upon arriving at their seats, fans found Coldplay’s signature LED bracelets, reimagined in recyclable, fully biodegradable form, which sprung to life when the band took the stage at 7 p.m. sharp, after a brief opening set by Prince protégés and Spheres collaborators We Are King. Colorful patterns rippled through the audience during most songs, as lasers and periodic confetti bursts filled the air beneath suspended circular screens and spherical objects. It’s tough to think of an act that could’ve more thoroughly tested the facility’s production capabilities, and it’s a testament to Martin’s kinetic stage presence that the spectacle didn’t swallow him whole.
But strip away the stadium-ready production and Martin and his three Coldplay bandmates – guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion – are just ordinary guys.
Before “Coloratura,” Martin spotted a young boy in the lower arena bowl, who had been holding a sign throughout the show explaining that it was his sixth birthday. Martin called the kid and his mom, dressed in the elephant costume from the video for the band’s 2011 hit “Paradise,” to the stage. When the youngster reached the stage and momentarily balked at joining the quartet, Martin reassured him: “We’re just human people!”
Again, Coldplay was just happy to be there.
“It feels so good to have our job back – thank you for that,” Martin had said earlier. “There are few things more frustrating for family members than a frontman stuck in a cupboard for two years.”
A frustrating scenario for Coldplay fans, too, who responded with a roar, welcoming back their beloved soft-rock superstars.
Viva la Vida
Adventure of a Lifetime
Human Heart (with We Are King)
People of the Pride
Everything’s Not Lost
Nothingman (Pearl Jam cover)
A Sky Full of Stars