Album Review: Coldplay – A Head Full Of Dreams

Coldplay released their seventh album A Head Full of Dreams earlier this month and if it indeed is the band’s last (probably more of extended break) it’s for good reason because the record is far from An Album Full of Songs.

Though A Head Full Of Dreams dumps the dreary and melancholy feel, for the most part, that encompassed singer Chris Martin’s postpartum break-up album from last year, Ghost Stories, it definitely keeps the somewhat meandering approach to song writing, seriously lacking the fun hooks and strong harmonies and catchy melodies that made Coldplay musical giants. Perhaps this musical venture has run it course.

To this day, that gem of a song “Paradise” off 2011’s Mylo Xyloto can induce goosebumps with the introductory lead-in culminating in those grandiose arena rock keyboards. Even the hardest soul would have a hard time keeping their emotions in check on “Fix You” off 2004’s X & Y. But there’s nothing, nothing like this on A Head Full of Dreams.

Sure, there’s definitely what could be considered good songs amongst the nine tracks (“Kaleidoscope” and “Colour Spectrum” are not songs and thus won’t be treated as such or this album gets knocked even more points) but even the dismal Ghost Stories offered a couple of standouts. Most of the songs here feel twice as long as they actually are and much of that can be attributed to the slow play and uninspiring arrangements.

The closest you get to memorable starts with the title track that opens the album (giving false hope of what’s to come) which features a solid Guy Berryman bass line and a decent melody but it doesn’t really go anywhere nor does the band bring the song home. “Birds” also starts out promising, again with a clever bass driving the song, but overall feels flat and then abruptly ends. “Hymn For The Weekend” annoyingly repeats the “Oh I, oh I, oh I, I’m feeling drunk and high” chorus far too long and a female vocalist enters late for some reason. Not sure if that’s Gwyneth Paltrow, the reason for Ghost Stories, who is apparently one of many guests on A Head Full of Dreams but at this point, not that interested in finding out.

“Everglow” has a pretty piano line and right away feels like it could deliver that emotional tug so many Coldplay songs provide and this album so desperately needs but Martin sounds like a 5 year old using baby talk and there’s no real passionate depth.

“Adventure Of A Lifetime” introduced the album a few weeks before the official release and brings another catchy bass hook though it sounds much like Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and what’s up with the backing singers? It’s not so much lifeless, there’s really nothing special about it. And seriously whose idea was it to rip off that abysmal Gwen Stefani/Akon song to close it out?

“Fun” features somebody named Tove Lo which is more or less a duet that’s pleasant enough but hardly enduring.  “Army Of One” is probably the closest you’ll get to indelible on this album but then halfway through it inexplicably turns into a quasi hip hop song. The change is so drastic you have to wonder if there’s a mistake in the linear notes. It makes no sense. It’s awful.

The dreamy “Amazing Day” features exceptional vocal work by Martin and feels quite a bit nostalgic but a bit bland too. Finally, “Up&Up” closes the album, and no it’s not about Target’s store brand of products. They’ve completely gotten away from any rock roots at this point. OK, a nice guitar solo (oh, there’s Jonny Buckland) arrives near the end, I guess.

A Head Full of Dreams might indeed suffer from the hope that it brings Coldplay back to form after the emotional release Martin needed and received after their last effort. The band never toured Ghost Stories and reportedly returned to the studio shorty after its release to record this one. Head Full of Dreams arrives with potential but the end product lacks the depth of all of their past albums (even on Ghost Stories the anguish was palpable) and nothing really shines through. It’s more like elevator music with lyrics – listen long enough eventually your head will be full of dreams.

Grade: C-

Coldplay – Head Full of Dreams Track list:

  1. A Head Full Of Dreams
  2. Birds
  3. Hymn For The Weekend
  4. Everglow
  5. Adventure Of A Lifetime
  6. Fun
  7. Kaleidoscope
  8. Army Of One
  9. Amazing Day
  10. Colour Spectrum
  11. Up&Up

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Mötley Crüe Says a Final Goodbye to Portland

Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx

Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx

Some bands burn out, others fade away but Mötley Crüe is doing it their way. Just like they always have.

It’s been nearly two years if you can believe it but the world’s most notorious rock band (Read The Dirt if you’re not easily offended) have hit the final stretch of their worldwide All Bad Things Must Come To An End farewell tour and made their final stop in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday at the Moda Center in Portland.

To say they blew the lid off the place is an understatement.

Fire – lots of it – explosions, steam vents and a drum solo you had to see to believe highlighted the 18* song, hour and 45 minute set in front of the loudest crowd you’ll ever hear. It wasn’t a sell-out, far from it, as curtains sealed off the entire upper bowl, but the fans who filled the floor and lower level let Mötley Crüe know how much they’ll be missed. And the foursome that started what can really only be described as a phenomenon 34 years ago made it clear they’re going to miss it too.

The show started off with their hit “Girls, Girls, Girls” with two dancing ladies helping the band out aesthetically and by the end everyone knew what was in store for the rest of the evening. Deafening stage bombs and streams of fire closed out the title track to their 1987 album. Guitarist Mick Mars then led with the awesome opening riff to “Wild Side” the opening track off the same album and the party continued.

Mick Mars

Guitarist Mick Mars

It was an evening of hits and a few deep tracks including “Louder Than Hell” one of three songs from 1985’s Theatre of Pain and the band didn’t forget their roots reaching back to their first album from 1981 playing “Live Wire” the opening song on Too Fast For Love.

The setlist differed just a bit from the first pass through the area on this tour and what a difference a year and a half makes. The band always plays tight and brings contagious energy but singer Vince Neil looked a bit more in shape and most of all he didn’t get winded, lose his place or forget the lyrics. His voice was clean and he nailed those classic high notes.

OK, now for that drum solo.  Walking in pre-show provides a glimpse of what’s to come with essentially a dual roller coaster style track starting from the main stage, lifting upwards probably 50 feet or so with various ups and downs of travel until it ended halfway into the floor section of the arena.  Nothing short of a spectacle, drummer Tommy Lee pounded out a 10 minute solo on a revolving platform that lifted him over the audience along the track route and sometimes turning him upside down, while he played. Yes, upside down.

Tommy Lee

When he finally reached the far end of the track he took a small breather, told the crowd the track concept was a dream come true before starting again as the moving platform returned him to the stage. Mars had the not so enviable task to follow with a guitar solo and though it certainly wasn’t the exhibition Lee put on, his handling of the fret board despite suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis, shows not only do his fingers still work, really well, he’s got a bit left in the tank.

The full band returned to the stage to close the main set with the awesome “Saints of Los Angeles” the title song to the band’s last studio album from 2008, the rocking “Live Wire” and finally two of the best songs in their catalogue “Dr. Feelgood” and “Kick Start My Heart” both off their platinum and bestselling Dr. Feelgood from 1989. Bassist Nikki Sixx and Neil finished the show each on crane like contraptions that lifted them from the main stage out over the audience.

Nikki Sixx

Nikki Sixx on Bass Guitar

They returned for one final song in a most welcome encore playing the very apropos “Home Sweet Home” a rare balled from these heavy and audacious rockers but the only applicable song to say goodbye.  And it was a heartfelt one at that. The band emerged on a second stage in the middle of the floor seating, complete with piano, that lifted them high as they played with Lee on the keys.

It’s been a long time, they’ve done a lot of bad things, and they don’t seem to get along well with each other at least for the long term. They’ve signed a deal that says when it’s over, it’s over. The walk-out music played Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My way” and they certainly did.

But.

The quality of play, their obvious love for performing and the seemingly endless amount of fun it looked for them on stage, it’s, as Lee said at the end of the show, really weird they’re saying good bye. The health of Mars is certainly a factor, they’re not 25 anymore, though they sound better than ever, and sure seasons must change and we all eventually take separate paths and separate ways but don’t just go away, not just yet.

Other bands have called it quits, returned for a farewell tour, then returned for a final tour. However, considering the nature of Mötley Crüe, don’t expect any such thing. It’s over.

You never know though. Keep your eye on the money.

*Did not include “In the Beginning” which preceded “Shout at The Devil.”

Mötley Crüe Portland (Moda Center) Setlist:

  1. Girls, Girls, Girls
  2. Wild Side
  3. Primal Scream
  4. Same Ol’ Situation (SOS)
  5. Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
  6. Smokin’ in the Boys Room
  7. Looks That Kill
  8. Mutherf**ker of the Year
  9. Anarchy in the U.K.
  10. Shout at the Devil
  11. Louder Than Hell
  12. Drum Solo
  13. Guitar Solo
  14. Saints of Los Angeles
  15. Live Wire
  16. Dr. Feelgood
  17. Kickstart My Heart
  18. Home Sweet Home

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Muse Brings Drones to Portland

Muse Feature Stage

English rockers Muse brought lights, a diverse setlist and even a bunch of high flying drones to Portland on Sunday night at the Moda Center as part of the band’s world tour in support of the trio’s seventh studio album Drones.

Muse rocked out 19* songs during an hour and 45 minute set that included everything the band is known for in their live performances – a dominate stage show featuring a whole lot of lights, video display and of course some stellar playing.

A dozen or so guards, who looked like the distant cousins of Star Wars’ Stormtroopers, rolled in with the house lights on lining alongside the stage on the opposite side of a railing that served to keep the general admission audience from the platform, which let everyone know the show was about to begin. Once in place, giant pod-like balls lined with LED lights descended from the ceiling and hovered above the crowd using a number of drone-style propulsion fans to stay afloat and maneuver in different formations just out of hands reach of the audience before the move over the main stage.

Muse Feature

Muse then emerged on their “in the round” stage which was immense dwarfing the area that normally contains the facility’s basketball court. The stage stretched from one end of the arena bowl to the other with the main set up in the middle, housed on a turn table. Singer and guitarist Matt Bellamy and Bassist Chris Wolstenhome walked freely using the end stages frequently while drummer Dominic Howard and a fourth player helping out on keyboards remained stationary.

Muse dove right into the new album starting the evening with the vulgar “Psycho” and then “Dead Inside” the first track off Drones before tackling older material beginning with “Hysteria” off their popular Absolution and then reaching farther back tapping into their sophomore release with “Plug in Baby” from Origin of Symmetry.

“The 2nd Law: Isolated System” the final track off 2012’s The 2nd Law came next and musically fits right in with everything off Drones but was mostly a pre-recorded piece with Howard playing fills and their extra on keyboards. Though The 2nd Law features a number of solid cuts with crowd friendly tempos and melodies “Isolated System” actually served as a decent lead-in to “The Handler” from the new album, one of the few transitions between songs that worked thanks to a virtual marionette hand with strings attached to Bellamy and Wolstenholme as they played.

Muse put Drones to bed for a bit breaking out the hits first with “Resistance,” then “Supermassive Black Hole” with the prerecorded short “Prelude” off Drones snuck in before their smash and audience favorite “Starlight.” This was the first time Bellamy really engaged the audience urging them on to sing the chorus which undermined the strength of “Starlight” because it’s Bellamy’s vocals, not the audience that propels this song to greatness.

“The United States of Eurasia” showed off Bellamy’s piano skills and then it was Wolstenhome and Howard’s turn in the spotlight with their instrumental “Munich Jam” featuring a head bobbing riff that would make Dave Mustaine proud. “Madness” the smash hit from The 2nd Law was the last off that album for the evening and Muse finished the string of older material with the Depeche Mode sounding “Undisclosed Desires.”

“JFK” (a portion of President John F. Kennedy’s speech before the Newspapers Publishers Association in 1961 featured as a “song” on Drones) served as a break between the older material before Muse played “Revolt” but they went right back to their popular fare with “Time Is Running Out” and “Uprising” again bringing in the audience to take over singing duties on select portions of the songs and again taking away from Bellamy’s passionate vocals. He’s got to be the only singer today who incorporates an inhale of breath into the arrangement of a song.

The long and somewhat meandering “The Globalist” (though it picks up really well about halfway through before drifting off again) ended the main set as the title song and last track off Drones, another pre-recorded number, played during what amounted to a quasi encore as an inflatable spaceship flew around the arena. It certainly wasn’t a traditional encore (to that – much thanks) with the band members waving and thanking the crowd, rather they all just left the stage to the monk-like chanting, which serves primarily as the song before the band returned and played “Mercy” and finally ending the evening with a bit of old west flair on “Knights of Cydonia.”

Muse played six songs (not counting “Drones,” “JFK,” or “Drill Sergeant” which technically opened the show) off the new album, a solid collection though “Reapers” should have received the live treatment. However, considering Drones is a concept album and thus tells a story, shuffling the original track list and scattering past hits in between proved a bit ineffective and didn’t give the new album just flavor. Performing Drones sequentially in its entirety, and either dividing the setlist into two parts, separating new from old, or bookending the new songs with older material might prove more effective.

Even the graffiti spray during “Mercy” the fourth song on the album during the encore felt off. The song isn’t exactly a joyous number eliciting jumping and dancing something that often feels automatic with a shower of paper.

The band’s stage presence comes across rather introverted and once the first guitar chord is played it’s all business. Bellamy didn’t introduce one song, rarely addressed the crowd save for a couple of thanks and his prompting to get the audience working the chorus sections. In many respects though, it proved even keel with the album’s theme and Wolstenhome, so menacing, stalking around at well over six feet tall pounding those bass lines, looked every bit as intimidating as the guards who “announced” the start of the show.

The nuances aside, Muse played flawlessly with nary a mistake on the night. The new album takes a bit to grow on you but is a solid record despite its underlying dark overtones. (A weekly entertainment rag listed Drones in its Top 5 worst albums of the year last week. Um, that’s what you get when millennials control the editorial content.)

As always, the stage show, something to experience. Though not as extensive as the last tour with the choreography between their playing and the timing of the strobes and light flashes to the beat and melodies, the band relied more on visual aids with sheer curtains dropped from the ceiling throughout the set displaying projections and a permanent 360 degree display over the main stage.

*Did not include “Drones,” “JFK,” “Drill Sergeant,” or “Prelude” as part of the setlist.

Muse – Drones Tour Portland Setlist (Moda Center)

 

  1. Psycho
  2. Dead Inside
  3. Hysteria
  4. Plug in Baby
  5. The 2nd Law: Isolated System
  6. The Handler
  7. Resistance
  8. Supermassive Black Hole
  9. Starlight
  10. United States of Eurasia
  11. Munich Jam
  12. Madness
  13. Undisclosed Desires
  14. Revolt
  15. Time is Running Out
  16. Uprising
  17. The Globalist
  18. Mercy
  19. Knights of Cydonia

Written By: AndrewT