Review: Coldplay brings its global spotlight to Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena

The lights cut, but a packed Climate Pledge Arena is aglow in a galactic blue, emanating from light-up bracelets strapped to fans’ wrists. Planetary spheres that would later shine with cosmic pastels hang in the shadows above a jacked crowd as Coldplay blasts off with ’80s-reviving synth party “Higher Power,” a revved-up highlight that opens the pop-rock giants’ new “Music of the Spheres” LP and Friday’s highly anticipated Seattle concert.

A battery of lasers, fierce enough to take down the Death Star, shoot out from the back of the stage as singer Chris Martin hops and jives his way up a massive catwalk in step with the giddy, high-definition synth-pop jam — a standout from the week-old record.

“This boy is electric,” sings the prancing frontman, moving like the protagonist of an ’80s sci-fi flick, dodging those lasers with scripted swagger.

Debatable. But in the moment, Martin and the pop-rock giants are hot enough to fry a million circuit boards. Whoosh. Confetti rains down on an unsuspecting crowd (not three minutes in) and it’s pure elation. You’d have thought the Kraken just got its first overtime win and this high-profile party is just getting started.

While the sold-out Coldplay gig — livestreamed through Amazon platforms — was billed as the $1.15 billion venue’s grand opening (emphasis on the “grand”), technically the first Climate Pledge Arena concert went down a few days earlier. If Tuesday’s double bill of hometown heroes Foo Fighters and Death Cab for Cutie was the localized christening a town with this much musical pedigree deserved, last night was the popcorn-ready spectacular befitting a glitzy new entertainment palace with ambitious concert plans.

Arena reps aren’t disclosing attendance figures, but a crowd size likely in the 15,000 neighborhood counts as an underplay for the British stars who packed a stadium-sized show into a little hockey arena last night. I joke about the “little” part, but the clear sightlines and oft-touted tightness of the bowl really do make Climate Pledge Arena feel intimate by arena standards. I sat in roughly the same section where I caught one of my last KeyArena shows and felt five miles closer (though that catwalk extending to center ice didn’t hurt), and while a venue that size will never sound as rich as the 1,800-seat Moore Theatre, it was generally clean and clear.

It was a high-stakes gig for Coldplay, coming the day tickets went on sale for perhaps the most ambitious tour of their career. The band isn’t exactly a critical favorite (at least on this side of the pond), and that’s just fine. But the commercial juggernauts command a very bright spotlight and the stars were shining for Climate Pledge Arena, too, as the Brits made the carbon-neutral arena their launchpad for their sustainability-focused Music of the Spheres tour next year, aiming to cut its CO2 emissions in half. (Big ol’ carbon footprint on those stadium runs.)

But credit Coldplay for still playing to Seattle and not the larger livestream audience watching through various Amazon platforms (roughly 35,000 were on the Twitch feed). In between a disco-rocking “Adventure of a Lifetime” — which saw Martin, in his almost-sleeveless tie-dye (or was that just the lasers?), flailing down the runway like an aerobics instructor at a cosmic bowling alley — and “The Scientist,” Martin fondly recalled playing the Showbox in 2002.

He name-checked the beloved club again introducing the knockout “Everything’s Not Lost,” a “Parachutes” favorite that felt like a barroom piano ballad, even in a room a million times larger than the springy-floored rock hall, with Radiohead-esque guitars leaning into the evening’s interstellar ambience.

Later, an acoustic rendition of Coldplay’s signature smash “Yellow,” fodder for infinite high school love notes exchanged during the early 2000s, managed to cut down on the cheese factor while still sounding like a coffee shop boy with a crush. Played from the end of the runway, the tune set up the biggest Seattle nod of the night, as Martin and drummer Will Champion (on keys here) veered into a heartfelt cover of Pearl Jam’s “Nothingman” as a tribute “to all the bands we fell in love with here in the ’90s.”

“If Eddie [Vedder] ever hears this, I love you, man,” Martin said. “Thank you for being so incredible to our band.”

It was a warm and memorable salute that made up for a few of the flatter chunks in their 90-minute set, including the band’s BTS team-up “My Universe,” a gleeful, midtempo pop romp that felt a little forced and detached without Coldplay’s superstar collaborators on hand.

In one of those classic pop-star-in-a-can, “awwww” moments that’s still impossible to deny, Martin pulled a 6-year-old birthday boy on stage to introduce the band and take the best seat in the house for a closing “Coloratura,” a 10-minute epic off the new album that had Martin making like the phantom of an outer space opera hunched over the piano.

For a night, the superstar pop band put Seattle and its eco-conscious new arena at the center of its universe for a cosmic swoonfest seen around the world. Not a bad way to break in the place.

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