Review Summary: This is Coldplay, live.
Eleven months ago, UK's Coldplay found themselves once more on the edge of world-beating success with critically acclaimed album Viva La Vida
's new brand of experimental and diverse soft-rock. Six
months ago, unused songs from the Viva
sessions hit the shelves in the form of the Prospekt's March EP
. In 2008 and the first five months of 2009, the band have embarked on two US tours and one European visit; they're also working on new material in the studio with Viva
's producer Brian Eno. Granted, the group themselves probably had minimal input other than performing, but the free-of-charge release of a new live album, LeftRightLeftRightLeft
, is still just a little bit impressive.
I'd love to say that LRLRL
is not your typical live album, but really that's exactly what it is, and a short one at that; at 9 tracks and 39 minutes long, it's a short glimpse of the stadium- and arena-rock sound the band have been nurturing since the more ambitious numbers of Rush Of Blood
. Unsurprisingly, Coldplay's more recent material dominates the track listing, with Parachutes
not even getting a look-in. No, 6 of the 9 songs on offer here are from records released post-2007, and it's a tribute to the talented pop songwriting that these anthems translate well to the big stage; obviously, it's hard to tell without the aid of pictures, but 42 sounds every bit as potent as it does as a studio recording, and Strawberry Swing
is enhanced by the fact that it manages to retain its humble, sweet nature even when it's being sung to the rafters. One of the most difficult and overlooked things about pop music is the amount of talent it takes to write music which seems personal to every one of a million people; Coldplay have always been pretty much top of that league table.
Yes, there are hiccups. Death Will Never Conquer
is practically a filler track which, given the range of hits on offer to fill its place, is a little bit criminal. It may be that it's meant to set up the finale – the ever-present and -affecting Fix You
, complete with the standard crowd vocals, and the closer Death And All His Friends
. One of Viva
's best tracks, it's a little underwhelming here, and doesn't really have any sense of closure; that said, its a capella introduction is a stand-out moment. Other such parts include the handclap-led percussion when the opening piano riff of Clocks
starts up, and the crowd's repetition of the wordless chorus at the end of Viva La Vida
, which one gets the impression is now burned brightly on the musical retinas of anybody who has ever seen Coldplay in concert.
Certain quirks, like the noticeable arpeggiated piano at the end of opener Glass Of Water
, are welcome differences to those familiar with the album tracks, and The Hardest Part
works surprisingly well as a heartfelt Chris Martin solo song (well, except the crowd, obviously.) Champion offers backing vocals throughout and he and Martin are on top-form. The singer's manipulation of the lyrics, especially during penultimate track Fix You
, shows that he's by no means a robot when he's singing live, and it's always endearing to see the level of connection with a song which allows you to subtly alter lines' syntax without changing the meaning of the song. Of course, there are some parts they don't change at all, and for good reason. Some choruses just need to be word-perfect.
So yeah, it's a live album. It doesn't surpass that format and it's certainly nothing ground-breaking. But it just might find its way into your CD player ahead of any of the four studio albums, by virtue of its accessibility and the fact it contains at least 8 of the best songs the band have ever written. The fact of the matter is that, were this the first Coldplay album you'd ever heard, you'd be utterly blown away by the way in which such simply-written pop music finds its way onto the lips of a crowd of thousands. The recording is great, the crowd is into it, and all four band members are on top form. There are times you have to close your eyes and just sing your heart out, and this is one of them.