Harry Styles Emerges as Rock Star on Solo Debut Album

Harry Styles: Harry Styles

What do you do in your spare time while on hiatus from one of the world’s biggest-selling and most successful boy bands? If you’re Harry Styles you use that time wisely by dropping a debut album so commanding that it makes you an instant rock star. If you disregard preconceived notions concerning boy bands, as well as stop trying to decipher if lyrical subtexts may or may not allude to Taylor Swift, you will hear the emerging talent of an undeniably credible solo artist. Harry Styles effectually straddles the line between do-it-yourself production qualities and cock rock.

Harry Styles won’t stop Directioners from wondering if and when the notorious boy band will reunite, but it certainly affirms Styles has the goods to become a major solo star. It’s also utterly refreshing to hear a young artist embrace the use of organic elements such as strings, guitar, and choir instead of opting for the exhausted generic sounding beat-driven production gimmicks currently permeating the musical landscape. [Read Full Review]

Watch the “Sign of the Times” Music Video:

Dreams, Adventure and Coldplay

best cold

 

These days, a mysterious cloud of uncertainty hangs over Coldplay’s future as a band. Chris Martin has alleged on more than one occasion the band’s seventh album, A Head Full of Dreams marks “the completion of something.” He’s also proclaimed he doesn’t envision another proper Coldplay full-length in the future. While it doesn’t sound like the band members themselves know for sure what lies ahead for the best-selling rock band of this century, it seems all but guaranteed it’ll be some time before what, if anything comes next.

With all that aside, I had vowed to catch Coldplay’s next tour ever since I viewed the Coldplay Live 2012 concert film in my local theater four years ago. I literally got goosebumps as I watched the debut of the multi-colored LED Xylobands ignite the darkness among thousands of wrists during the documentary, which chronicled the massive Mylo Xyloto Tour of 2011 and 2012. From that moment on, I knew I had to do whatever it would take to be part of the unadulterated euphoria I witnessed throngs of fellow Coldplay fans sharing as I merely looked upon them from the rectangular silver screen.

When word finally arrived of Coldplay preparing to launch 2016’s A Head Full of Dreams Tour, my entire summer was instantly engrossed within a fever-pitched frenzy of anticipation at the thought of seeing Coldplay live again. Although I had caught the band’s impressive act previously during the Twisted Logic and Viva La Vida tours in 2006 and 2009, they had yet to incorporate the Xylobands, which subsequently made me feel as if I’d missed partaking in the full-on Coldplay concert experience. Therefore, I purchased my tickets posthaste.

Finally, after months of waiting, the day of the show arrived. I packed up my car early in the morning and drove to see my favorite band, coincidentally for the second time, in Louisville, Kentucky (I had previously seen Coldplay at Freedom Hall in Louisville during the Twisted Logic Tour back in 2006). During my drive, my mind constantly raced back and forth between the excitement and anticipation, but I also found myself wondering if I’d mentally created impossible expectations for the show. After all, I hadn’t been this zealous to see a concert in several years.

I ultimately made my way to downtown Louisville and was pleasantly surprised to see the concert venue within view from my hotel window. I explored some of the city as I impatiently counted down the hours until the show. I’d allotted enough time to arrive at the KFC Yum! Center just as the doors opened. I eagerly made my way to the merchandise counter and methodically selected my souvenirs. If this was to be my last chance to see Coldplay perform live, I damn well wanted something to commemorate the occasion.

Alas, it was show time. After not so tolerantly waiting through not one, but two, unremarkable opening acts, I felt my chest begin to pound as I nervously adjusted my precious Xyloband, still waiting for it to come alive. Just when I thought I couldn’t wait another minute, the concert hall precipitously filled with Maria Callas’ operatic voice as “O Mio Babbino Caro” echoed within the walls. Then, as the lights went out, the screens lit up with greetings from attendees of the previous show in Chicago, as they sent their regards and introduced “the greatest band in the world…Coldplay!” Suddenly, a collective roar erupted and music began to pour out from the amp stacks. Thousands of Xylobands concurrently ignited the darkness creating a sparkling sea of red and white pulses. Will Champion, Guy Berryman, and Jonny Buckland took their places on stage as an exuberant Chris Martin leapt onto a multi-colored runway encompassing half the venue’s floor section. The foursome opened with the effervescent title track from the band’s seventh album. It was a high-energy opening that climaxed with multiple canons firing a cornucopia of rainbow colored confetti upon the cheering crowd.

 

Chris

(Photo: Annette Allen © 2016 Popmartzoo)

 

The show progressed into an arena-sized sing-along, culminating into a musical love fest enhanced with balloons, lasers, pyrotechnics, and multiple confetti showers which accentuated, but never over shadowed the hypnotic music. Songs were featured from all of the band’s albums including “Trouble,” “Fix You,” “The Scientist” and “Magic.” Also a few surprises along the way such as a cover of Bowie’s “Heroes” and Johnny Cash’s hit “Ring of Fire.” During the band’s hit “Paradise,” the setting was transformed into a technicolored diamond field, evoking the group’s kaleidoscopic album artwork, which quite frankly took my breath away.

On my right, there sat a mother with her daughter who looked as if they’d never attended a concert before, as they waved and hooted every time Chris Martin looked in our direction, who couldn’t possibly have seen us through the flickering haze of blinding lights. But at least they were in the moment instead of watching it through the screens of their cell phones. To my left, were two twenty-something males who regaled all who’d listen with the tales of their journeys, which thus far entailed seeing Coldplay in Indianapolis, two consecutive rain-soaked nights in Chicago, with Louisville marking their fourth show of Coldplay’s AHFOD Tour within the span of a week. I couldn’t begin to fathom how they’d managed to budget the time and money necessary to follow their favorite band, not with the exorbitant cost of tickets nowadays. I calculated they’d easily dropped a grand on tickets alone by the time they’d trekked their way to Kentucky.

Meanwhile, Martin chatted up the audience as he talked of not being able to resist playing a venue called the “Yum-Yum Center” and mentioned having a somewhat sentimental attachment to Louisville, which led many to speculate about his previous relationship with actress Jennifer Lawrence (as Louisville is Lawrence’s birthplace).

The evening’s two-hour extravaganza continued with a non-stop, hit-packed set list, a plethora of glowing lights, and thousands of voices singing in unison, resulting in a jubilant, other worldly feeling of sensory overload. Before the show concluded, I’d already decided I wanted to, no, I needed to experience it all over again. Cosmic forces must’ve aligned to my will, as I somehow managed to score floor seats to the show in Pittsburgh the following week. I still don’t know why or how, but low and behold there were two (and only two) seats available in the second row of the floor section awaiting me at Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center. But was I really willing to drive 10 hours for a concert I’d just seen? You bet your Coldplay-loving ass! The thought of re-living that show from a close-up perspective allowing me to become immersed in the action was all it took to motivate me to do whatever necessary to be a part of my unparalleled concert escapade once again.

I’ve seen a lot of shows over the years, but the most memorable ones have always been when the audience is whole heartedly engrossed and connected to the performance, knowing every word of each song, and ultimately resulting in one big communal experience with the artist, myself, and thousands of like-minded fans intersecting together for one moment of shared space and time. This was one such show, making all others pale by comparison.

As I write this somewhat cathartic purging, it’s been over three weeks since I crossed five states to attend Coldplay’s stop in Pittsburgh. Within that span, not a day has gone by without unflinching ruminations of those two mind-bending concerts. Whenever I close my eyes I still see the shimmering Xylobands, Chris Martin running and jumping into an exploding rainbow storm of confetti, as well as the surreal screen images and backdrops. I can almost hear the spellbinding musical interludes, and remember the iridescent gold hue during “Yellow.” I imagine the various colors of bouncing balloons throughout “Adventure of a Lifetime,” and the countless yards of flying streamers unleashed at the conclusion of “Up&Up.” Every day I revisit key moments I managed to capture in photos and video clips. Within my mind’s eye, I still dream about the thousands of LED lights twinkling along to “A Sky Full of Stars.”

Upon reflection, I now understand why those two dedicated and well-travelled fans next to me in Louisville had attended four shows. The second show I attended in Pittsburgh turned out to be a grueling 23-hour car drive, but I don’t regret a single minute of the seemingly endless journey. Instead, I find myself wondering what it would feel like to experience Coldplay’s music-filled spectral-colored wingding in a gigantic stadium. I can only imagine being amidst a crowd of 90 or 150,000 fellow Coldplay admirers swaying, singing, clapping and lighting up the sky with their flashing Xylobands. If possible, I’d attend each remaining date of what could very well become Coldplay’s final tour.

 

Coldplay Perform Career-Spanning Set at NME Awards

Coldplay money shot

Coldplay received NME’s Godlike Genius Award last night and treated the audience to a six-song set which included the hits “Viva La Vida,” “Charlie Brown,” “Clocks,” “Yellow,” Adventure of a Lifetime” and “Fix You.”

NME’s most coveted accolade was presented to the award show headliners by Kylie Minogue Wednesday night at London’s O2 Brixton Academy. Coldplay delighted attendees of annual award ceremony with a mini-concert performance which included LED wristbands, a great deal of confetti, and an unexpected table-top performance by Bring Me the Horizon’s Oli Sykes.

Fresh off of performing a triumphant Super Bowl halftime show, the chart-topping band will kick off its 2016 global A Head Full of Dreams Tour in March. The 2016 global trek will mark Coldplay’s first stadium tour of North America since 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

May Music Madness

Summer is upon us and along with it comes a swarm of noteworthy new releases. Therefore, I’ve compiled a short list of how to get the most musical bang (and bonus tracks) for your bucks.

May 6

Shine On (Deluxe Edition)

Sarah McLachlan: Shine On

The deluxe version includes the bonus tracks “What’s It Gonna Take” and “Little B,” which are available exclusively on CD with Target’s version, as well as Amazon and iTunes’ digital deluxe editions.

May 13

Blue Smoke [+digital booklet]

Dolly Parton: Blue Smoke

The queen of country returns with her 42nd studio album and Walmart is offering a limited edition with the four bonus tracks “Get Up Get On Get Out,” “Olive Branch,” “Early Morning Breeze” and “Angels in the Midst.”

Unrepentant Geraldines (Bonus Track Version) [+digital booklet]

Tori Amos: Unrepentant Geraldines

The high priestess of baroque pop returns with her first proper studio album since 2009’s Abnormally Attracted to Sin. Described as a true return to form in the vein of Boys for Pele, Amos’ 14th studio album will be released on 180 gram vinyl LP, as well as a deluxe casebook edition, which includes a DVD of behind the scenes footage and the bonus track “Forest of Glass.” The iTunes version also includes the bonus track “White Telephone to God,” and Amazon’s digital version includes the additional bonus track “Dixie.”

Turn Blue

The Black Keys: Turn Blue

The highly anticipated follow-up to the alluring indie rockers’ El Camino was co-produced by Danger Mouse and has been described as moody and emotional, but highly melodic. The 11-track set includes the title track and “Fever,” which are available now on iTunes.

May 19

Ghost Stories [+digital booklet]

Coldplay: Ghost Stories

Coldplay returns with their experimental project, which is reported to precede another full-length set to be released in 2015. Target has scored an exclusive of the band’s sixth studio album, which includes the bonus tracks “All Your Friends,” “Ghost Story,” and “O (Part 2/Reprise).”

May 27

Me. I Am Mariah?The Elusive Chanteuse [Explicit] [+digital booklet]

Mariah Carey: Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse 

The emancipated diva returns with her first and fiercest studio album since 2009, which includes the hits “Beautiful,” “The Art of Letting Go,” and her stunning version of George Michael’s “One More Try.”

Coldplay Live 2012

Coldplay Live 2012 (Poster).jpg

Coldplay’s Live 2012 (the band’s first concert film since 2003), is a visual and aural experience unlike anything attempted during the group’s previous treks around the world. Coldplay Live 2012 was filmed in Paris, Montreal, and Glastonbury and was directed by Paul Dugdale, fresh from recently lensing Adele’s Live at The Royal Albert Hall.

Coldplay Live 2012 documents the band’s current and massively successful Mylo Xyloto Tour, which is still in the midst of galloping across the globe. The tour, which is the band’s most dazzling spectacle yet, is meticulously captured here on this live DVD/CD/Blu-Ray and undeniably demonstrates Coldplay has matured into world class live performers. Raising the bar by leaps and bounds above their previous outings, Coldplay Live 2012 is destined to go down in music history as the moment when the band fully hit its stride.

Rich with larger-than-life performances (most notably “Yellow” and “Charlie Brown”) ranging from intimate theatres to gargantuan sold out stadiums, the tour film is a visual color-fest highlighting the band’s luminous paint-soaked stage and featuring throngs of passionate fans drenched in neon confetti and armed with computer controlled, multi-colored, LED wristbands. The film also incorporates black and white documentary style footage (divided equally between each group member), which profusely enhances the experience instead of merely being an inessential diversion. Coldplay’s Live 2012 succeeds in creating what U2 attempted to achieve with Rattle and Hum.

Although Coldplay will be on hiatus in 2013 before beginning work on their sixth studio album (tentatively scheduled for 2014), this 96-minute concert film (plus the two bonus performances “The Scientist” and “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart”), along with its accompanying live CD, is visually stunning and musically remarkable enough to keep your eyes and ears enthralled for unlimited repeat plays during the interim. Coldplay Live 2012 manages to forever capture the moment when Coldplay rises above mere greatness to become one of the world’s best live acts.

For those not fortunate enough to possess a ticket to the Mylo Xyloto Tour, this is the next best thing to being there for all of whom are willing to eagerly follow the band’s musical evolution. Coldplay Live 2012 may very well be considered paradise indeed.

© 2012 Popmartzoo