I’ve never been 100% convinced by Coldplay.
When they emerged at the turn of the millennium, I wouldn’t have placed a bet that the pasty faced posh boy in the anorak singing slightly off key in the rain would go on to have an unbroken string of international platinum albums, fill stadiums around the world and marry a Hollywood blonde.
Even when Coldplay hit their stride with their second album, the undoubtedly great single Clocks became so ubiquitous on commercial radio that it became irritating.
I much preferred the third album X&Y, slightly darker and less radio friendly, and was mightily impressed with their live set around that time in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park, closing with a still sublime Fix You.
So it was with these memories in mind that I ventured to Hampden Park over a decade on to see how the have progressed.
Coldplay reached a career high in 2008 with the epic single Viva La Vida and it was undoubtedly the highlight of the Hampden set – big enough to fill the stadium with the entire band belting out the triumphant yells and drummer Will Champion stealing Chris Martin’s limelight with his massive tom and bell.
However, after Viva La Vida in 2008 they went a bit pop and became the confirmed radio fixtures that turned Clocks from a classic to a car radio bore.
Teaming up with Rhianna on Mylo Xyloto was almost unforgivable, and the follow up Ghost Stories was so dour the band considered it unworthy of a tour.
Now they’re back (perhaps for the last time, if you believe the press) with the poppish bombast of Head Full Of Dreams.
Neither Mylo Xyloto nor Head Full Of Dreams are bad albums, but they’re just a bit too polished and pop-filled to feel authentic.
The stage show is spectacular, filled with lasers, fireworks, pyrotechnics, coloured glitter and even your own personal flashing wrist band – but one wonders if all of these baubles are just a distraction from how mediocre much of the set is.
If any militant fans are reading, please hold on to your hate mail. As I say, I’m not a fan – more a fickle admirer who has never been enchanted so my opinion doesn’t count for much in Coldplay quarters.
But aside from half a dozen big tunes, most of which I have already mentioned, very few songs set the pulse racing either on record or, unfortunately, live.
There was a noticeable mass-stupor whenever they played anything from Ghost Stories but otherwise there was a sea of smiling faces down in the mosh pit, most of them teenage girls suggesting the pop moves have paid off if that’s the audience Coldplay are looking for (it is vast, and lucrative).
But towards the end they retreated to a tiny stage at the back of the crowd, and played a mini acoustic set with some old numbers including one they played in their formative years at Glasgow’s career stepping stone King Tut’s, suggesting Coldplay still regard themselves as a mid-sized indie band at heart and not the Hello magazine darlings they have transformed into.
You can’t really grudge Coldplay their success. Most of their slightly earlier contemporaries are now trotting out 20th anniversary tours in small venues (as we have documented fairly extensively in recent months).
But they’ve become a stadium band without a full quota of stadium tunes. You can shuffle along to a song like Ink in an old ballroom but it feels a bit underwhelming in a huge stadium.
It’s doubtful whether Coldplay will ever come down to the level of a mid-sized indie band again, which is a shame as they have enough classics to forgive them a bit of filler if you don’t have to walk a mile for a pint or queue for two hours in a traffic jam to get out of the car park.
For that kind of hassle, you want something historic, era-defining, once-in-a-lifetime, but for me Coldplay just don’t cut it.
A Head Full of Dreams
Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall
Hymn for the Weekend
Heroes (David Bowie cover)
Viva la Vida
Adventure of a Lifetime
In My Place
The Hardest Part
See You Soon
A Sky Full of Stars