Coldplay once ruled the world, but HER could be next, if their standout performance as the UK band’s opening act on Sunday, May 15 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara is any indication.
Dubbed the ‘Queen of Everything in the Bay Area’ by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, the Vallejo native provided the most electrifying contributions of the night, which marked the 49ers’ first home gig in 1,001 days. (the last show was the Rolling Stones in August 2019).
Throughout his set, HER showed his impressive vocal control, from his own “Focus”, with its stratospheric passages, to powerful covers of “I Love Rock and Roll” by Arrow, “We Will Rock You” by Queen and “Are You” by Lenny Kravitz. I will follow my path. Her mesmerizing performance of “Best Part” was like being wrapped in a warm blanket in the middle of the windy stadium and showcased her versatility. And HER’s confidence only grew, as she moved from instrument to instrument, from acoustic guitar to electric bass, piano and finally drums.
“Bay Area, I’m so happy to be home,” she told the crowd during Sunday’s golden hour, before launching into the moving “Come Through.”
Coldplay’s selection of HER as the opener for their Bay Area leg of the “Music of the Spheres” world tour provided a glimpse into what may well be the future of rock music after Coldplay’s retirement. (Martin announced last year that the group would release a final album in 2025.)
The group also seemed concerned about the future of Earth, judging by the ubiquity of sustainability in the stadium. For one, there were kinetic floors that, when jumped on, would build up power to use at Coldplay’s next gig, according to a video shown on the giant screen ahead of the band’s arrival. The video also highlighted the band’s efforts to reduce the environmental impact of touring – from using reused cooking oil to fuel the show to biodegradable wristbands.
When it comes to music, Coldplay allocated roughly equal time to new and old, placing songs from their latest album “Music of the Spheres” alongside their early 2000s hits. Predictably, performances of the band’s classic hits, including 2002’s “The Scientist” and 2008’s “Viva La Vida,” were spirited and left many onlookers in tears.
And yet, the result was a rambling set that felt like it had been cobbled together by hitting “shuffle” on a playlist featuring the band’s entire discography.
Visually, Coldplay seemed to be aiming for futuristic and intergalactic themes in line with their current celestial-themed album. But everything fell flat. Nightmarish robots and puppets with no clear ties to the music made repeated appearances in the video backgrounds for numbers such as “Infinity Sign” and “Biutyful”. K-pop idols BTS also made a virtual appearance for the catchy but musically empty “My Universe,” which the two groups released together last year.
It was all awkwardly endearing, and overall the show was still fun, thanks in large part to Coldplay’s infectious and uplifting stage presence. It didn’t hurt that there were fireworks, confetti, balloons, light up bracelets and a disco ball to add lots of energy throughout the set of around 100 minutes.
But the party was suspended for two songs towards the end of their set as Coldplay were joined by pedal steel guitarist Preston Wait on a small stage near the back of the dark arena to perform “Orphans” and “Sparks”, the latter of which was dedicated to the victims of the Buffalo, NY shooting that occurred at a supermarket the previous day. Martin also mentioned Ukraine in passing: “Give love to Ukraine, (to) your grandma or Buffalo.”
At another point, Martin paused the band’s performance of “Sky Full of Stars” to hold a short band reunion and asked people to put their cameras down for four minutes before restarting the song.
“We’ve felt welcomed here longer than some of you have been alive at first sight, so just because the world is a bit of a mess and it seems like a real bowl of love right now,” Martin said. said, “I was wondering if we could do a song, just together.”
Martin ended the night with a series of thanks – to the fans for “literally empowering us” and to openers Gonz and ELLE (“It’s really a pleasure, basically, we shut down for HER every night,” said said Martin.)
“As this tour goes on, hopefully we get cleaner and greener,” Martin said. “It’s just amazing that we’re able to do what we can do right now.”