Apple announced last month that the popular iTunes Festival held annually in London, will make its US debut in a five-day festival at the Moody Theater in Austin, Texas, running alongside the South by Southwest music showcase. With the festival starting out almost seven years ago now overseas, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, expressed in a statement that it would be nice to expand the company’s love of music with customers. As SXSW is officially in full swing now, London traditions brought in a little English flair as Coldplay headlined the first ever festival at SXSW last night, and blew festival goers away in a stellar set that has fans and critics talking.
UK band Coldplay performed an 11-song setlist before hundreds of fans on the historic stage of the Moody Theater in Austin, Texas last night (the same stage as the beloved PBS series, Austin City Limits). The quintet played a few of their old favorites, as well as debut some new tunes from their forthcoming sixth studio album, “Ghost Stories”—slated for a May 19 release. The band hasn’t released any new music in the last two years and lead singer Chris Martin knows it, telling the audience, “We’ve been away a long time and I can’t think of a better place to come back into the world.”
The concert streamed live via iTunes and Coldplay’s VEVO channel on YouTube on Tuesday night, and was highly anticipated and well received by fans around the world. In the first week of shows during SXSW hosted by iTunes, Coldplay performed seven of their older tracks, including their tune from the recent Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire. In addition, they introduced four new songs off their latest album, two of which have already been released to the public (“Magic” and album teaser, “Midnight”).
The show, which started a little after 10 pm CT, opened up with “Always In My Head”—the first of four live debuts from “Ghost Stories”. It’s a tune that epitomizes that soulful Coldplay ethos we all know so well. It’s beautiful and minimalist with lyrics reminiscent of tracks off their 2000 debut, “Parachutes” (“My body moves/Goes where I will/But though I try/My heart stays still”). This is bound to be a fan favorite.
The next tracks in their setlist were “Charlie Brown” and “Paradise” off their 2012 album, “Mylo Xyloto”; a very expansive sound in the Coldplay discography. In many ways, it makes the first three albums sound so much more sober and solemn.
The band performed their official single “Magic” off the new album and it was magical. With an audience under their spell, Coldplay’s charming track is cool, intelligible, and has a skeletal sort of beat but carries its own weight in enchanting vocals by Martin, and smooth guitar kicks. It’s a great single choice about how some of us try our luck at love but lose; and again, it takes us back to their early days with “Parachutes”.
After “Magic”, the band performed “Clocks”—a track off their 2005 album, “A Rush of Blood to the Head”. As fans became engulfed in the hypnotic piano riff that song is known for, little did they know they would hear another song off “Ghost Stories” so soon. Introducing “Another’s Arms”, the haunting track utilizes electronic flourishes and their signature spirit in a mid-tempo piece, echoing their 2005 album’s themes (“When the pin just rips right through me/Another’s arms, another’s arms/When the world means nothing to me/Another’s arms, another’s arms.”)
Their seventh track of the night found the band getting the audience to their feet and singing along with “Viva La Vida” off their 2008 album of the same name. The band performed their 2014 Golden Globe nominated track, “Atlas” from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire—their very first live performance of the film’s track. The twinkling piano and slick guitar riffs off this tune is a swooning cinematic ballad of Coldplay’s makeup and obviously, what the popular film series is about.
They performed “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”—another track off “Mylo Xyloto”–full of bounce and an explosion of confetti streams that buried the band under layers of paper strands. The last track of the evening, “Fix You” off their 2005 studio album “X&Y” is one of their most popular, and known for receiving strong and an equally positive reception from fans and music critics all around. It seems to be a staple at their concerts and for good reason, since the beautiful and poetic track means so much to Martin as he wrote it for his wife, Gwyneth Paltrow after the passing of her father.
Just when fans thought the show was over, Coldplay came back after a few minutes with an encore and performed “Midnight” off of “Ghost Stories”. The slow-pulse and chilly number featuring Martin’s heavily impressive vocals, highlighted by beaming synthesizers is again a minimal track kept simple and direct with the main melody coming out of Martin’s voice. It creates great drama in the thin frame of the tune with an icy and forward feeling.
It was a phenomenal concert for sure and though it was relatively less than a full concert, the band gave fans and critics a meaningful glimpse into what’s in-store this May with their sixth studio album. The four tracks were ethereal and chilly, giving me goosebumps. Not sure if it’s a true indicator or so of their new direction and sort of, reinvention towards an icy electronica label with the album, but it was very much welcomed and somewhat nostalgic of prior material. “Ghost Stories” feels and treads ground exactly what it is shown—a ghost, viewed and felt as light, cold, that ‘floating’ feeling; and in many ways, summing up events in past tense as heard in some of the tracks.
With what’s been presented at the iTunes Festival, Coldplay is seriously back! And though fans may have been more excited, Martin expressed on stage how the band was looking forward to this, saying, “I know that you come to see your favorite band play, but sometimes your favorite band needs to come to see you sing along.”
Critics and fans like myself, are extremely excited to see what other ‘magic’ the band is up to with their album come May.
The complete setlist from Coldplay’s concert at the iTunes Festival:
“Always In My Head”
“Viva La Vida”
“Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall”
Tonight’s headliners will be Kendrick Lamar, Soundgarden on Thursday, Pitbull on Friday, and finally Keith Urban on Saturday. With the iTunes Festival at SXSW bringing the biggest names in music to the legendary music conference in Austin, Texas, you are in for a musical treat to keep you warm this ever-long winter! From March 11-15, 2014, you can watch the shows live or after the performances for free!
Did you watch the concert? What do you think of the new tracks? Let us know what you thought in the comments below!