Downtown Music

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September 19, 2005 // UPDATED 1:58 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Michael Metzger
Michael Metzger

We are the world/b>

It's possible that Downtown is the epicenter of the universe. Not for long, but for this week it just might be. Music is soaking into every pore, every pothole and every piece of Downtown, it seems. We'll sample some of the wide, wild array of music, including appearances in town this week by Memphis Bleek, Franz Ferdinand, John Mayer (in a sold-out show with Charlie Sexton), Bill Frissell, Idlewild and The Proclaimers, among others, but let's focus on the battle of the bands first. And not just any bands, but the two that are vying for the fictional title of world's biggest, baddest, A-1, superprimo band.

U2 is the longtime champion. It has stood astride the planet like a colossal money-machine, selling out concerts and pressing platinum-selling CDs and making commercials for best-selling products; all seemingly at will. (Sell, sell, sell. That's what the world's biggest band does.)

The challenger for the diamond-encrusted title belt is England's Coldplay. Like U2, they fashion sweeping, soaring anthems that feel like big issues are being addressed in majestic ways.

Coldplay takes the big stage at the Target Center on Tuesday night, and U2 will be there in a sold out show on Friday night.

While the latter band has gotten creaky and repetitive in its attempts to rise above mere superstardom (see Bono's increasingly dull send-ups of rock stars via his Fly and MacPhisto characters), it nevertheless remained pretty much unchallenged for the title until Coldplay -- vocalist-pianist Chris Martin, guitarist Jon Buckland, drummer Will Champion and bassist Guy Berryman -- came along a few years ago.

While U2 churns out rock 'n' roll hymns about a higher power saving us from our rot and corruption, Coldplay aims instead to illuminate small stories with its anthems. The result is a bit jarring. U2 goes after big fish in a big pond. Coldplay goes after minnows in the Atlantic. Their songs feel smaller than they should, given the sweeping aural soundscapes accompanying them.

Martin writes mostly about his personal turmoil, while U2 often focuses on global themes. While angst-riddled anthems can provide an interesting dichotomy, the yawning gulf between small theme and big sound eventually makes Coldplay sound self-obsessed and trivial.

The gold standard is still set by U2, as evidenced by the sold-out status of their show. Coldplay tickets were still available as of press time.

• Coldplay, Tu Sept. 20, 7:30 p.m. Target Center, 600 1st Ave. N. $39.50-$52.50. 673-0900