More than 20 years into their career, Coldplay still haven't decided if they want to be the best band in the world or the biggest. They're the kind of group who will collaborate with both ambient god Brian Eno and EDM bozos the Chainsmokers on the same release (this year's Kaleidoscope EP); the kind of band who will pompously use a Puccini aria as the intro for what is otherwise a shamelessly pandering greatest hits set.
Try as they might, they can't have it both ways. Although Coldplay's love for predecessors like Radiohead and U2 suggest they strive to be taken seriously as an Important Rock Band, they've never scored an era-defining critical smash. Instead, they've had to settle simply for being very, very famous.
This isn't a bad thing, necessarily; Coldplay do an excellent job at being famous. This night (August 22) was a absurdly over-the-top rock spectacle, made all the more grandiose by the fact that the stadium's roof was open on this warm summer evening. Opener Izzy Bizu had the unenviable task of playing her mid-tempo R&B tunes to a distracted crowd who were preoccupied with buying beer and finding their seats. Next up, AlunaGeorge did a better job of grabbing the audience's attention with their beat-driven electro-soul.
After the aforementioned Puccini intro, Coldplay's arrival was heralded by the CN Tower overhead lighting up with the band's signature rainbow colour scheme. Launching into "A Head Full of Dreams," the four Brits didn't waste any time before showcasing their big-budget theatrics: every fan had been given an electronic wristband upon entry, and these illuminated to provide a stunning synchronized light show. Meanwhile, pyrotechnics exploded, enormous TV screens lit up and the first of many confetti showers rained down as frontman Chris Martin pranced his way down a gigantic walkway that extended out into the audience.
It was instant sensory overload, which was truly stunning but meant that some of the show's subsequent quiet moments — like when the four-piece performed a few stripped-down tunes on a separate stage in the middle of the audience — seemed almost quaint by comparison. While the tender ballads ("Fix You," "The Scientist") and back catalogue rockers ("Yellow," "Clocks") inspired huge sing-alongs, it was the dance-pop crossover numbers that made the biggest impression. "A Sky Full of Stars" and "Something Just Like This" may be bone-headed and saccharine on record, but in concert it's impossible not to be swept up by their sugar-rush crescendos.
As stunning as the grandiose production tricks were, the best gimmick was also the most simple: during late-set highlight "Adventure of a Lifetime," enormous balloons were loosed into the crowd, and adults and kids alike were scrambling to punch them into the air. Even if Coldplay aren't the best band in the world, the fact that they were able to fill a stadium of onlookers with wide-eyed, childlike wonder proved that they're well deserving of their status as one of the biggest.