Concert Review: Coldplay Triumphant in Return to Portland

Everyone needs a second chance…including Coldplay.

Coldplay singer Chris Martin on piano

Three years ago the band played the Clark County Amphitheater and it was clear that large, outdoor amphitheaters are not a fit with this band. It was a lackluster performance, to put it mildly, and by the third song I sat down from boredom.  Coldplay’s intimate songs demand an intimate venue but perhaps by the time they got around to the Pacific Northwest they were bored too.

But on Tuesday at the Rose Garden in Portland, singer Chris Martin was sweating through his shirt by the third song providing proof to his comments that unless he’s sweating he’s not giving the audience his best. Coldplay not only gave their best, the show was one of most memorable concerts I’ve been too. These guys are a legitimate rock band.

Forget the rain of confetti, the bouncing beach balls and the dazzling light show that incorporated blinking wrist bands given to the audience, Martin, guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion played a tight set that proved why they are one of the world’s best-selling acts.

Whatever criticism is laid on the band be it the whiny songs, the overly slow and sad songs, and similar sounding songs, the genius behind Coldplay is they know how to tap into the brain’s emotional center more than any top selling band today.  From the melancholy, “Warning Sign,” to the gut-wrencher, “Fix You,” to the crowd pleaser “Paradise” Coldplay’s songs backed by Martin’s intensity can make you sit and reflect on a lost love or ponder the excitement of the future.

Coldplay guitarist Jonny Buckland and drummer Will Champion

Coldplay’s sound can be directly attributed to Buckland’s guitar playing which helps fit the band in nearly its own genre just like what The Edge does for U2 and Alex Lifeson does for Rush. And, Champion is far from a one-two puncher time keeper behind the drums. Watching him pound the sticks is just as entertaining as Martin’s twirling  and running about.

The overhyped Viva La Vida (it certainly didn’t help when Martin claimed it to be the greatest piece of music ever – it wasn’t) may have sold better, thus far, than Mylo Xyloto, the album the band is currently touring, but Mylo shows a gradual shift towards a more upbeat approach and is a far superior album than Viva. The album is much stronger as a whole and production wise each song has its own flavor. Paradise brought the entire audience, even those in the rafters, to their feet and no one sat down until the show was over four songs later. The band performed 10 of the 14 songs from Mylo.

What clearly is not lost on Coldplay is the adoration of its fans. Martin thanked the crowd no less than three times for spending their money and their time on a Tuesday to see the band. The Coldplay faithful would likely brave any conditions to see their heroes but Martin’s comments were far from self-indulgent.  The world is living in trying times and concert tickets are not cheap. With a nod to this fact Martin promised to deliver a worthy show.

And they did.

Coldplay Portland Setlist (Rose Garden):

  1. Mylo Xyloto
  2. Hurts Like Heaven
  3. Major Minus
  4. Lovers in japan
  5. The Scientist
  6. Yellow
  7. Violet Hill
  8. God Put a Smile Upon Your Face
  9. Princess of China
  10. Up in Flames
  11. Warning Sign
  12. Don’t Let it Break Your Heart
  13. Viva La Vida
  14. Charlie Brown
  15. Paradise
  16. Us Against the World
  17. Clocks
  18. Fix You
  19. Every Tear Drop is a Waterfall

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Social Distortion Delivers Memorable Yet Paced Show

Iconic rockers Social Distortion brought their brand of Punk N Roll to a sold out show in Portland on Tuesday at the Roseland Theater and took their time doing it.

Witnessing the first show of any tour, which this was, provides little more than a mental souvenir for the fan but also requires some patience on those in attendance as the kinks are worked out. The band, led by Mike Ness, did not reach the stage until after 10 p.m., more than 30 minutes after the second opening act left, and paced their way through a 16-song set.

Social Distortion singer/guitarist Mike Ness

Ness looked winded at times taking frequent breaks between songs, chatted up the audience more than I can remember and even joked at one point about needing to get some oxygen.  Perhaps more than 30 years of underground Rock N Roll will do that, especially for Ness who eclipsed 50 last week. However the playing did not suffer at all.

This was perhaps not only the strongest set of songs I can remember but Social Distortion is playing at a very high level. Ness, who founded Social Distortion with (more or less) the late Dennis Danell, has made brilliant decisions in keeping what is rightfully his band together after the exits of so many previous members.  Brent Harding is entertaining to watch on bass and how can you go wrong with veteran guitarist Jonny Wickersham, who joined after Danell passed in 2000.

The band started the show with “Bad Luck,” “So Far Away” and “Story of my Life” before ripping into “Machine Gun Blues” off their latest album Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, which is already almost a year and a half old. At this point any frustration with the band for taking so long to start had melted away, and after “Telling Them,” all was forgiven.

Shockingly, after 10 songs (just an hour) the band left the stage. The typical encore is usually two or three songs, however Social Distortion added five and another 30 minutes including two of their best songs “Winners and Losers” and “Far Behind.” “Reach for the Sky” was also in the encore set and relaxed a bit with more of a bluegrass flavor. It worked and I applaud the band for trying a new approach, however perhaps more effective would be for Ness to sing the first few bars acapella before the band comes in hard and fast.

Mike Ness at the Roseland in Portland

Social Distortion has come a long way musically and professionally in the last three decades. The band is pretty much the only surviving member of 80’s punk rock and they are so much better than the Crawford Hall days at UC Irvine. However, 20 years ago Social Distortion opened for the Ramones at the Roseland and today they still play there. Thankfully, they passed up (whether intentional or not) playing at the Crystal Ballroom but after more than 30 years and such a loyal following the band deserves a larger venue.

Hard Times may also not be as punk rock as some would like but as Ness said during the show he’s not angry anymore. Though after pausing, he said he was angry about different problems. Anger makes for good records – Mommy’s Little Monster – but an angry and bitter teenager cannot stand the test of time . The reality is had Ness not grown up like the rest of us both he and Social Distortion would have washed out before 1990 ever happened.

Every album by Social Distortion is a testament to Ness’ life phases. The angry me against the world at the beginning, a little melancholy after spending time in prison and then reflective with how fast life moves.  From there Social Distortion, or rather Ness, gets down on himself before realizing, as all of us do eventually, that he was wrong.

Perhaps, now liberated from his personal pain, Ness is focusing on enjoying himself, the music and playing. Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll is a testament to that and is one of the band’s best albums. Hard Times simply continues with what all musicians should do: Grow in their music and writing.  Ness has indicated he doesn’t want to wait another six to seven years before releasing a new album and we can only hope he sticks to that plan.

Social Distortion plays a second show Thursday at the Roseland.

Social Distortion Portland Setlist (Roseland Theater):

Bad Luck
So Far Away
Story of my Life
Machine Gun Blues
Sick Boys
Telling Them
Bakersfield
Gimme the Sweet and Low Down
Dear Lover
Sometimes I do
Nickels and Dimes
Winners and Losers
Let the Jukebox Keep Playing
Reach for the Sky
Far behind
Ring of Fire

Written By: AndrewT