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Coldplay at Bimbo's 365 Club (Review)
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rossiter Drake*

5coldplay.jpg
Coldplay spreads peaceful, easy feelings
to an adoring crowd

Coldplay
Bimbo's 365 Club, San Francisco
Dec. 11, 2002 

The late great Who bassist John Entwistle was legendary for his ability to get lost in the crowd.

While Roger Daltrey would prance about, twirling his microphone and showing off his glistening chest, Pete Townshend and Keith Moon would wreak havoc on their instruments, reducing the band's equipment to rubble. But Entwistle was content to hang back on the side of the stage, stoically, seemingly impervious to the mayhem around him. He acknowledged his knack for avoiding the spotlight, referring to himself as "The Quiet One."

There's a Quiet One in every band. The Rolling Stones had Bill Wyman. Led Zeppelin had John Paul Jones. The Beatles had George Harrison.

There are three Quiet Ones in Coldplay. The Brit-pop darlings, who headlined Alice@97.3's annual Alice in Winterland show at Bimbo's 365 Club on Monday night, have dazzled American audiences with the lush, acoustical prettiness of their first two albums, Parchutes (2000) and A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002). Along the way, they've earned more than a few comparisons to alt-rock stalwarts Radiohead and U2, high praise indeed for a working-class quartet originally formed in 1998 by four University College, London, students looking to blow off a little steam.

If Coldplay's soaring melodies andd majestic anthems justify those comparisons, their live performances do not -- yet.

Perhaps that shouldn't come as a surprise. It took Radiohead and U2 years to develop stage presence, and precious though they may be, Coldplay needs time to do that as well.

There is plenty of promise that they will. From the pounding opening chords of "Politik" to the hypnotic coda of "In My Place," the band held a crowd of nearly 700 rapt from an hourlong set drawn mostly from Rush of Blood. The highlight of the evening -- an impassioned rendition of the tender ballad "Green Eyes," performed solo, without a single microphone, by singer Chris Martin -- was rewarded with deafening cheers, as fans reveled in a moment made possible only the intimacy and superb acoustics of Bimbo's, a club more accustomed to the jazz set than arena-rock acts. ("We'll play some old favorites," Martin quipped early on. "We'll move on to jazz numbers for the third set.")

Scampering about the stage, a lone spotlight shining down on him while his bandmates toil in the shadows, Martin is clearly the driving force behind Coldplay, at least as a live entity. His intensity, most notable during spirited takes on "Clock" and "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face," is in obvious contrast to the Quiet Ones, guitarist John Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion -- though, to be fair, Buckland is given to the occasional dramatic spasm during his most searing solos.

Not every band needs acrobatic feats to engage an audience, of course. The music alone is often enough to whip fans into a frenzy, and Coldplay, whose songs typically begin as quiet, piano-driven numbers and build into blaring, grandiose climaxes, understands that. Musically, they are compelling live performers, if not the most visually exciting. But it's inevitable that audiences draw their energy from the stage, and by the end of Monday's show, Martin was red in the face, his face dripping with sweat. Its just too bad he was the only one. -- Rossiter Drake

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