Review: Coldplay Brings Empathy — and Selena Gomez — to the Band’s 2023 North American Tour Finale

October 3, 2023

PASADENA, Calif. — In 2023, a Coldplay concert opens like a triumphant finale — LED wristbands flashing, confetti canons on overdrive, a singalong of 68,000 voices repeating “You’ve got a higher power,” to match frontman Chris Martin’s energy.

Flags representing attendees from Argentina, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, South Korea and Brazil were raised; children and the elderly sang along to familiar radio hits. Live music isn’t church, but for two hours on Sunday night, the British band got close.

A short film on the conservation efforts of Coldplay’s global stadium tour for their 2021 album “Music of the Spheres” previewed the band’s North American tour closer at the Rose Bowl, just outside of Los Angeles. Then: an explosion of rainbow lighting effects, tie-dye orbs, and wholesome bits — for “Paradise,” Martin asked the audience to engage in the “quietest singalong ever,” chanting the title in a whisper.

Chris Martin of Coldplay performs at the Rose Bowl, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

In one moment, he participated in a gender reveal — a couple handed him an envelope, which he opened for the cameras — blue for boy. In another, he read some of the signs held high above heads in the crowd before inviting two girls from Mexico on stage to sing “Let Somebody Go.” When he was handed a small stool, he joked, “We’re the most popular soft rock band in the world and we can’t afford a stool?”

“This song you’ve chosen, we used to play it a bit, but we, when we recorded it, we recorded it with Selena Gomez,” Martin told the two girls. They sang together, before Gomez herself emerged from the stage below for her verse. Then, opener H.E.R. joined and played guitar — an unexpected surprise for a glorious final night.

From left, Jonny Buckland, Chris Martin, Will Champion and Guy Berryman of Coldplay perform at the Rose Bowl, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Elsewhere, the virtuosity of the band was apparent. Drummer Will Champion sang while leading the percussion; guitarist Jonny Buckland and bassist Guy Berryman took turns playing keys and synths. For a band that formed 26 years ago, there was a sense that this was a full-circle moment — that they still remember those early days of cigarettes and writing together in small practice spaces, and that allows them the ability to see their future.

Chris Martin of Coldplay performs at the Rose Bowl, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
H.E.R. performs in rain during her opening set for Coldplay at the Rose Bowl, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

The overarching sentiment for the night, of course, was empathy. Martin ran around with a trans-inclusive rainbow pride flag and routinely reminded the audience that “everyone is an alien somewhere,” as his graphic t-shirt read. Routinely, he spoke in Spanish and asked the audience to sing in Korean for the BTS collaboration, “My Universe.”

At the end of the show: a killer series of singles, including “A Sky Full of Stars,” “Fix You” and an acoustic encore of “Magic.” Then, fireworks. There is a reason the band is beloved around the world — after the encore, Coldplay played the audience out with “Believe in Love,” a welcome reminder.



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