Through the darkness, a familiar melody rings out across the arena. But it’s not the opening track the 60,000-strong audience was expecting. To the soaring Flying Theme from the classic 1982 film ET, Coldplay charges ceremoniously on to the stage, like a crew of astronauts preparing for liftoff.
It is a fitting entrance for the Australian premiere of Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres tour in Perth, which animates their eponymous ninth studio album with a spectacle of flying planets, confetti cannons, fireworks and delirious singalongs. It is a childhood fantasy writ-large, wavering between head-spinning nausea and starry-eyed rapture.
Dressed in a tie-dye T-shirt and oozing his bouncy puppy-dog energy, Chris Martin launches into Higher Power, an electrifying entry point to the band’s non-stop barrage of hits that ensues over the two-hour set. The song premiered at the International Space Station in 2021 and tonight it’s given the same cosmic revelry, with the band’s signature LED wristbands glowing red and purple across the night like sea sparkle.
“Thank you for letting us come to Western Australia,” Martin says from behind the keyboard. “We’ve been rehearsing this show for 119 concerts so I think we should be up to standard now.”
Coldplay made a detour from south-east Asia to perform in Perth in what is their only Australian pitstop. The eco-conscious band chose Perth over Sydney due to its proximity to Jakarta, the previous stop on the tour, although it is believed the Western Australian government also brokered an eight-figure deal to land the gig.
After the band’s 2019 announcement that they would stop touring until they could make it more sustainable, they have slashed emissions on the Music of the Spheres tour by almost 50%. This ethos runs through the production, with kinetic dance floors and power bikes recharging the show batteries, solar-powered wrist bands made from compostable materials and part of ticket sales going to a range of environmental causes.
In the first part of the evening, the band focuses on hits from their early years, much to the delight of the audience of primarily gen X and elder millennials who were likely blaring Yellow on their car stereos before Spotify was a thing.
In The Scientist, Martin pounds the keyboard like a concert pianist. For the Brian Eno-produced anthem Viva La Vida, the band performs on the B stage amid a swarm of red, blue and white wrist-band lights, a nod to the French Revolution. You can feel the whole stadium pulsating and chanting to its rousing melody.
By far the night’s most touching moment comes when Martin invites a teenage girl named Jasmine up on stage whose sign reads “I beat cancer to be here”. He performs a delicate acoustic version of her favourite song, Everglow, as she sits beside him holding back tears.
Their career-spanning setlist continues into newer terrain with tracks such as the sugary-sweet pop ballad Human Heart. Normally a duet with Selena Gomez, tonight it’s performed by a Muppet, aka the fictional alien character Angel Moon. Judging by some of the bemused, cringing faces in the crowd, it’s totally lost on certain fans. Similarly in Something Just Like This, the entire band dons giant illuminated alien heads while a dizzying intergalactic journey lights up the screens. It gets a little fanciful and perplexing.
With its masterful animations and immersive lighting, the show is certainly a visual feast. However, musically, you can sense a lull in the audience’s enthusiasm for some of the band’s newer electropop and EDM-infused tracks. While all bands evolve over time, this is unrecognisable from the Coldplay of 20 years ago. Eye-popping gimmicks aren’t enough if the music is so far removed it’s lost its authentic core.
As the generous spectacle draws to a close, Coldplay perform a gentle acoustic version of Sparks from their 2000 album Parachutes. “It’s easy to read the news today and think everybody hates each other,” Martin says partway through the track, as giant red love hearts shimmer across the stadium. “I want you to send some love anywhere in the world you want to send it. To Gaza, to the West Bank or to Israel.”
Comic relief comes in the form of the Song for Australia, an improvised track where Martin manages to squeeze in some impressive local references from Tame Impala to Dennis Lillee alongside the hilarious chorus “my life would be a failure, if I didn’t go to Western Australia”.
The evening concludes with the heartrending anthem Fix You, where Martin asks the audience to put away their phones and enjoy this moment together as “one big band”. With fireworks, confetti and floating planets, the finale pulls out all the stops and we’re left with the simple message – “believe in love”.