AUSTIN — Coldplay has expertly mastered the importance of being earnest on stage. That came through in the band’s return to the USA here at the iTunes Festival Tuesday night during South By Southwest.
“We’ve been away a long time and I can’t think of a better place” to re-emerge, frontman Chris Martin told the crowd gathered at the Moody Theater at Austin City Limits Live downtown, playing to “a few hundred people here and a few million online.”
The opening song, Always In My Head, was the first of four live debuts from the band’s new album Ghost Stories, out May 19. Wearing a spartan white long-sleeved shirt and dark jeans, Martin had worked up a sweat 10 minutes into the set during Paradise, the second of two songs from 2011’s Mylo Xyloto included in the 11-song set. Later, Martin dropped to his knees to sing Every Teardrop is a Water Fall.
All of Coldplay’s songs performed were solid, but the nearly packed auditorium responded best to the anthemic Viva La Vida and the more precious and melancholy Fix You, which Martin dedicated to “everyone involved in the Malaysian (missing plane) situation,” he said. “We’re so lucky to be able to come play when there are such terrible things going on in the world.”
Each of the other bands sharing the bill cited Coldplay as an influence. Dan Rothman, guitarist for opener London Grammar, noted that “we grew up listening to Coldplay, so this is almost like a dream.”
The band is one to watch, with lead singer Hannah Reid, whose vocal delivery runs from ethereal to Florence Welch powerhouse belting, likely satisfying fans of Lorde.
Imagine Dragons had the middle slot and reeled off an efficient 11-song set that included Radioactive and Demons. “This is such a beautiful venue and so many legends have played here,” said singer Dan Reynolds.
The triple bill was the best of the iTunes Festival, which runs through Friday, said Tayla Ridley, 22, of Austin, who began waiting at 3 p.m. for seats after winning a lottery to get into the cozy 2,700-seat auditorium. “They don’t play places this small and this was one of the first times to see Coldplay in a while,” she said.
And Ridley had been wanting to see London Grammar, which is playing several gigs here during SXSW. “But we got to see them in a relatively calm setting,” she said.