COLDPLAY, Royal Albert Hall – Evening Standard, 2 July 2014

The release of Coldplay’s most subdued album is accompanied by the band’s most intimate shows in some time this week. They appeared in the round, with a surprising lack of security between them and ecstatic, constantly filming fans, Chris Martin’s back endlessly patted as he roamed among those who still love him unconditionally.

  He and Gwyneth Paltrow announced their “conscious uncoupling” in April, which made the Ghost Stories album seem more interesting than it really is as we delved through its tasteful electronic textures for nonexistent insights into the disintegration of a marriage. A few of its songs drifted on by here, next to vibrant older anthems such as Viva La Vida and Clocks.

  The quartet still held attention with the most impressive light show I’ve seen at the Albert Hall – animations projected onto the ceiling diffuser discs, stars dangling all over, lasers zipping around the balconies. Midnight, with its lovesick robot feel, was enlivened by Guy Berryman appearing to play bass sounds by passing his hands across coloured laser beams.

  Among other surprises were the rarely heard early songs Don’t Panic and Everything’s Not Lost (but no Yellow), with guitarist Jonny Buckland, “Maybe the shyest man in the universe,” according to Martin, singing a verse on the former. Also surprising given his personal situation, Martin was as gushing and tiggerish as ever, never standing on two legs where one would do, working as hard as ever to make the audience feel as appreciated as the band.

  He stressed that there aren’t many gigs supporting this album. A second one here tonight is all London is getting for now. They may yet return to the stadiums but this smaller setting suited their current muted state, and as A Sky Full of Stars proved, there was still plenty of room for a confetti explosion.