FOXBOROUGH – It’s hard to hate Coldplay. Sure, some work hard at it, sniffing lazily at a band grown hugely popular over the course of a mere decade and a half of putting in the work. But Coldplay is too ingratiating, too inclusive, too invested in uplift that (usually) resists the urge to be cheap. Having ceased to be cool years ago, the band was free to do what it does naturally when it played for a sold-out Gillette Stadium crowd on Saturday night: traffic in earnestness without ingratiation, self-awareness without self-consciousness, and – in the case of frontman Chris Martin – the grandiosity of Bono, minus the messiah complex.
But grandiose nonetheless. By the second line of the show-opening disco-beat anthem “A Head Full of Dreams,” Martin had already propelled himself substantially down the walkway leading from the stage into the crowd, and was exhorting to the topmost decks before the first chorus was over. Where the opening acts had looked minuscule and trapped on the massive stage, Coldplay created a sense of scale, commanding the attention of a stadium full of fans and acting as a focal point for their energy.
Perhaps that’s why they played “Clocks,” fueled by Will Champion’s slipped-cog drumbeat and Guy Berryman’s bass thrum, as though they were still excited that they had a chance to do so, rather than weary that they had to. The band also bit down hard on “Charlie Brown,” its yearning riff set against an accelerated heartbeat; “Viva La Vida” boomed, and “Birds” was clipped and rolling all at once.
But Coldplay also harnessed that energy in less explosive ways. “Hymn for the Weekend” seemed to float along with the confetti that swirled through the lasers above the field. And when Martin sprinted back from the satellite stage as Jonny Buckland’s guitar pinged into the crescendo of “Fix You,” the singer’s leap onto the stage as the drums kicked in seemed to happen in slow motion. Coldplay lived in that moment, floating but about to touch down.
Borrowing elements from the mature pop of Florence and the Machine and especially Ellie Goulding, opener Foxes sounded like she was singing a collection of source tracks for future hit remixes. Alessia Cara followed a similar template, but with brighter material that suited her enthusiastic warble. Her voice was well-suited to sadness and melancholy strength, but those were at the core of her least-developed, most cliché-laden songs.
With Alessia Cara and Foxes. At Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, July 30Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.