For a band that’s been called wimpy for the better part of two decades, Coldplay showed some remarkable chutzpah Sunday night in the halftime show at Super Bowl 50.
Sure, frontman Chris Martin was his usual heart-on-sleeve self, starting the performance with a few lines from Coldplay’s ultra-sensitive “Yellow” and later leaping around a stage festooned with flowers. At the end, the crowd at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara held up colored cards that spelled out “Believe in Love” — a characteristically squishy Coldplay sentiment.
But consider this: For his group’s biggest performance ever — one that elicited no shortage of groans when Coldplay was announced as this year’s halftime headliner — Martin willingly elected to share the stage with someone he had to be certain would outshine him.
OK, so asking Beyoncé, perhaps the most beloved entertainer alive, to join Martin before an audience of millions might also be a form of insurance. Add in that Coldplay asked Bruno Mars to be there too, and you can be pretty certain that Martin (and the National Football League) were making sure this year’s show wouldn’t drift away like so many damp tissues.
Still, props to Coldplay members for not being afraid to look like the little guys at their own gig.
Which, of course, they did.
Described in advance as a celebration of Super Bowls past, present and future (or something along those lines), the halftime show had Coldplay doing an uplifting version of its song “Viva la Vida” backed by Los Angeles Philharmonic music director Gustavo Dudamel and members of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles.
The children — they’re our future, you know. And here they were perfectly inspiring as they sawed away at their brightly colored violins. For Coldplay’s “Paradise,” a youngsters’ marching band joined the party along with a troupe of ribbon dancers who provided more valuable color in the late-afternoon daylight.
The past, one presumes, came in the form of Mars’ happily retro “Uptown Funk,” which he and his band updated — if that’s the word — with welcome bits of MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” and “Jungle Love” by Morris Day and the Time.
As he did when he headlined the halftime show himself in 2014, Mars carried off his performance like the top-notch show-biz professional he is. (Ditto Lady Gaga in her classy Broadway-caliber rendition of the national anthem that opened the game.)
More history came in the form of Coldplay’s “Fix You,” which unfortunately was accompanied by video clips of earlier halftime performances by the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney — a real buzzkill for anyone looking to Sunday’s show to say something about right now.
That left Beyoncé to do that job.
And did she ever with a fierce run through “Formation,” the single she released Saturday afternoon, little more than 24 hours before she brought the song to pop music’s most-watched stage.
Actually, Beyoncé didn’t use the stage: Backed by a phalanx of leather-clad dancers wearing Black Panther-style berets, the singer stomped across the stadium grass as she delivered the song’s message of radical black positivity.
It was an amazingly bold sight, far more powerful and straightforward than we’re accustomed to seeing at the Super Bowl.
Did Chris Martin know what his guest had in mind when he invited her to appear? If he did, he’s even braver than I thought.
Just not as brave as Beyoncé.