Coldplay at Metro Chicago

By Mark Guarino

Rock star wives don’t often get their own separate round of applause. But Gwyneth Paltrow did Friday at Metro once Coldplay, the band her husband plays in, ended their 90-minute set and the house lights came up.

Watching from the club’s balcony, Paltrow and her accompanying celebrity were reminders how far the British quartet has come since its first album five years back. Then, they were just another U.K. band of transparent looking hopefuls with one radio hit, trying hard not to disappear. Then two years later arrived their second and better album, “A Rush of Blood to the Head” (Capitol), which became a global smash, catapulting the band into stadiums and lead singer Chris Martin into the tabloids. Strange things happen when you reach that tier of celebrity — you name your first born child after a fruit and ask your fans to eject and check their cell phone batteries at the door to your shows.

The latter was the case at Metro where it was assured that, in the intimate quarters, no one would dare snap a photo of the couple or call their friends to tell them who’s in the house. Coldplay is playing a string of small clubs before the June 7 release of their third album, “X&Y” (Capitol), one of the most anticipated albums this year and one which, as the buzz goes, is expected to save the industry from its continuing collapse.

One thing is certain: the band is meant for stadiums. After telling the crowd they will return to play bigger venues in late summer (“I only hope that the rest of Chicago is as brilliantly cool as the rest of you,” he said) he asked that everyone go see U2 tonight, when they begin a four-night run at the United Center. After referring to them as “the second best band in the world,” he followed up saying he was “just joking.” But the competition makes sense. Coldplay’s love songs follow a similar grand scope as U2, they position themselves as being fan friendly with attention paid to just the right causes, and the guitarist, bassist and drummer always look very bored.

Martin has grown into a more than engaging frontman. Switching between playing a tiny upright piano and guitar, he hopped and twirled and switched on the big moments of some songs with just the right gesture. The tight setting showed what a nuanced singer he really is, curling his falsetto ever so slightly and letting tiny pockets of silence speak volumes.

Songs like “Clocks,” “Warning Sign” and “For You” sounded more intense under Metro’s small roof, with segments of highs and lows creating insistency and also unanimity among fans who turned each one into a full choir effort. New songs included the heavy and dense rocker “Low” and “Square One,” featuring the dark rhythmic pulse of bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion. “Til Kingdom Come,” performed acoustically, was Coldplay’s first steps into roots country. A few of their new piano ballads, however, were largely tuneless.

Martin often made a point of singing his most romantic lyrics directly up to Paltrow. Considering that next time Chicago gets to see the band is alongside 34,000 of their closest friends (August 13 at Alpine Valley), the chance to be the couple’s voyeur for a night was a rare treat. That is, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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