UNIVERSAL CITY, California – Chris Martin only forgot the words once.
After taking more than a year off from performing, Coldplay returned to the stage over the weekend, headlining influential public radio station KCRW-FM’s annual A Sounds Eclectic Evening concert on Saturday at the Universal Amphitheatre and warming up the night before at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.
And while Martin stumbled through the opening of “Politik” during the encore of the KCRW show, the singer more than made up for it by treating fans to five new tracks from X&Y, due June 7, and six old favorites.
“When you have a record coming out and everyone’s talking all this sh- about you, there’s a fine line between arrogance and total fear and dread, and I like to think we tread the line extremely badly,” Martin joked of his nerves late into Saturday’s sold-out show.
Still, Coldplay showed confidence in their new material, opening the set with an ambitious, Radiohead-ish tune, and later boasting that a different new number is “f–ing good.”
The former, called “Square One” according to Coldplay’s Web site (Martin never said any song titles), features a techno beat and guitar effects that could score a sci-fi movie.
Coldplay led the opener right into A Rush of Blood to the Head ‘s “In My Place,” during which Martin danced around the stage, hopping on one foot and proudly announcing, “We’re Coldplay, from Britain.”
Another new track, “White Shadows,” a U2-inspired number that featured Martin joining Jonny Buckland on electric guitar, followed. “It’s been a while,” Martin then said during their first breather. “Some of us have cut our hair or grown our hair, but you guys came out to see us and took a shot once again.”
Martin, whose hair was in fact visibly more shaggy, then led the band through “The Scientist,” “Daylight” and “Sparks,” during which Buckland played both the piano and guitar. “He’s the most talented person, as are the rest of the guys in the band… except for me,” Martin quipped. Actually, Martin’s got his talents as well, as he showed at the end of “The Scientist,” when he sang a verse backward (something he learned while shooting the video). “Check this out!” he bragged with a boyish grin.
After “Sparks,” with fans mostly relaxed in their seats, Coldplay introduced the new balled “A Message,” which had a similar feel. “My song is love, is love I know/ And I’ve got to get that message home,” Martin sang.
“You don’t have to sit down for this one,” Martin said as he pounded the piano opening of “Clocks,” which easily brought the audience to its feet.
“We’re proud of this song, but if you don’t like it, f– it, listen to the old stuff,” Martin said to introduce “What If,” a moving mid-tempo almost certainly about the singer’s new child, Apple, with wife Gwyneth Paltrow. “What if she should decide/ That she don’t want me there by her side/ That she don’t want me there in her life,” Martin sang over atmospheric, Sigur RÃ³s-like backing.
After “Politik,” Coldplay brought out “Speed of Sound,” the first single off X&Y, which goes to radio stations in mid-April. The tune also has a breakbeat similar to “Square One,” but the guitars are more prominent and the solos in the bridge make for a more anthemlike number.
“Hopefully we’ll see you soon with a proper live show and even more new songs, proper outfits, everything you could dream of from ‘Pop Idol,’ but better,” Martin said before the finale. “This is an oldie but goodie.”
That “oldie” would be “Yellow,” during which Martin begged for the house lights to come on (and it took some begging) and then asked for the audience to handle the singing.
KCRW, especially Nic Harcourt’s flagship show, “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” was the first American radio station to spin Coldplay, so Saturday’s annual benefit for the station was a chance for payback.
Although past A Sounds Eclectic Evenings have featured surprise guests like Beck, Pete Yorn and Flaming Lips, Joseph Arthur was the only unannounced performer Saturday (not to take anything away from his intriguing live show, which finds Arthur building backing tracks live with the help of technology).
Rock en espaÃ±ol stars Cafe Tacuba, Paul Buchanan (formerly of the Scottish cult band the Blue Nile), Prince-inspired soul singer Van Hunt, English singer/songwriter Aqualung, hip-hop crooner Nellie McKay and female rock trio the Like rounded out the four-and-a-half-hour show.
Coldplay’s only two confirmed North American dates for 2005 so far are on April 29 at Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and the following night at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California, but according to the band’s management, a 40-city North American tour is scheduled to kick off in late July.