VANCOUVER — Coldplay’s “A Head Full of Dreams” tour stops at BC Place on Friday night (Sept. 29), but the British band played a much smaller venue in Vancouver 16 years ago, on a much colder night.
I know, because I was there.
On Feb. 8, 2001, the Commodore Ballroom played host to Coldplay’s first-ever gig on North American soil.
Chris Martin and company were greeted at the airport by icy weather and snow.
“But inside the hallowed Commodore Ballroom, the climate was almost balmy, as the overheated crowd squeezed into the seriously sold-out venue,” I wrote in a review for the canoe.com website.
“Given the fact that the band has only one album under its belt, ticket-buyers knew not to expect a marathon set of Springsteen proportions. Luckily for Coldplay, the quartet’s sole long-player, ‘Parachutes,’ goes deep both early and often, with memorable, highly melodic and occasionally mesmerizing tales of faith, hope and devotion.”
Yeah, I loved that “Parachutes” album at the time, and still do.
That Thursday night in Vancouver, the ballroom’s sprung dance floor wouldn’t be getting much of a workout, though, with the band’s softer songs played.
“Still,” I wrote at the time, “the energy was palpable as the fresh-faced members of Coldplay made their entrance — in jeans, T-shirts and, in the case of singer Chris Martin, a humble, buttoned shirt — against a backdrop that had the look of crushed velvet on brick.”
Martin mumbled “Canada, Canada, Canada” as he finished strumming the quiet notes of the set-opening “Spies”.
On the evening’s next song, “Trouble,” he quickly made use of the electric piano that was pushed up behind him on the bare-bones stage, which was decorated only by the globe that graces the cover of “Parachutes,” resting atop Guy Berryman’s bass cabinet.
Guitarist Jonny Buckland’s sunburst Fender Mustang then kicked in with the soaring, stadium-sized riff of “Shiver”, which Martin dedicated to “Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette and all the sexy Canadian women.”
(Note: The video below says Feb. 5, 2001, but it was most definitely Feb. 8, 2001)
My review continued: “Throughout the entire set, Buckland’s guitar sounds caressed Martin’s high, fragile voice with the kind of cascading, echo-y textures with which The Edge made a name for himself back in the day.”
Throughout the evening at the Granville Street bar, Coldplay came close to duplicating the sonic wonders of “Parachutes,” I noted.
“Lulled by a mid-set string of mellow tunes (and the band’s stay-where-you-are stage presence), the crowd exploded eight songs in when Martin began strumming the opening notes to Coldplay’s hit, ‘Yellow.’ The song ended with the group bathed in (yup) a bright yellow hue, and the crowd happily singing (the song’s) closing refrain, without any on-stage prompting at all.
“Four songs later it was all over, and Coldplay turned its attention to the drive to Seattle and the other cities on its short, 10-date tour.”
The Vancouver concert was opened by Lily Frost, by the way.
Here’s Coldplay’s full setlist at the Commodore that night, as posted on setlist.fm:
Everything’s Not Lost
In My Place
You Only Live Twice (Nancy Sinatra cover)
What the World Needs Now Is Love (Burt Bacharach cover)