Review: Coldplay ring in 2017 and pay tribute to George Michael in spectacular Abu Dhabi show

Coldplay brought the fireworks and confetti for a celebratory show on New Year's Eve in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi, UAE — December 31, 2016 — Coldplay captivates the crowd with their hits on New Year’s Eve — Navin Khianey for The National
Powered by automated translation

New Year’s Eve 2016 is a gig tailor-made for Coldplay.

The uplifting vibe inherent to nearly all of the British group’s oeuvre was sorely needed in what was a tumultuous year, both internationally and in the region.

Back in the capital five years after their New Year’s Eve show on the Corniche, the Chris Martin-led four-piece provided the closure fans craved. Coldplay also quickly dispelled any niggling doubts that a budget version of their successful world tour was coming to the capital.

The Du Arena show was the real deal.

They performed on three stages with cutting-edge production – lighting rigs beamed out a swirls of colours as wristbands worn by more than 25,000 attendees lit up in hues to complement songs. There were also cannons that shot lorry-loads of confetti, giant balloons, and so many fireworks that the pyro display by the Rolling Stones at the Du Arena in 2014 seemed tame in comparison.

Then there are the songs themselves, most of which are big, full-bodied anthems that playfully skirt a fine line between emotional release and mawkish.

Bells sounded around the arena at 10.15pm, as the group ran on to kick off the show with A Head Full of Dreams, the title track on the band's latest album.

With more than 100 shows already performed on three continents, the boys had no cobwebs to blow. They were tight from the get-go as they locked into the track’s throbbing four-on-the-floor rhythm.

Guitarist Jonny Buckland unleashed those shimmering riffs with ease, while Martin acted as a less pouty Mick Jagger. He ran down the T-stage and danced away like a mad dervish, all the while remarkably keeping his soaring vocals in key.

Next up was Yellow, which remains the band's calling card after being released 15 years ago, and a fine showcase for Martin's crystalline falsetto.

By the time the EDM stylings of Every Teardrop is a Waterfall arrived, the crowd were dancing along. The clubbing vibe continued with Paradise – the original version segued into trance DJ Tiesto's own remix of the track. With the wristbands spasming in laser blue and ultraviolet, the whole affair felt like the friendliest rave on the planet.

The group then strolled to the B-Stage, a small circular space at the tip of the T, for a rewarding stripped-down set.

Always in My Head ached with its floating melodies, while the beautifully understated Everglow found Martin solo on the piano.

“We are very grateful that you are here,” he said in the introduction. “We have been travelling and meeting amazing people from all around the world and we couldn’t ask for a better place to finish.

“I want us to use this song and send it out as good vibes around the world. Send it to Yemen and Syria, or to your cousin or your sister – basically whoever needs that positive, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, vibe.”

The action returned to the main-stage with the band getting stuck into some of its biggest numbers.

While Clocks is renowned for its signature ethereal piano arpeggio performed by Martin, the 2002 hit is a reminder of Coldplay's underrated rhythm section. Guy Berryman, normally shy and aloof on stage, is really the one in charge here with his precise, throbbing basslines. Meanwhile, drummer Will Champion keeps it all nice and tidy with his sturdy no-fuss playing.

After a sickly sweet rendition of Fix You, helped along by the mass singalong of fans, Coldplay paid tribute to George Michael, who died on Christmas Day, with a sprightly cover of his 1987 hit Faith.

With a small stint performing on the C-Stage – set up in a corner of the General Admission area – out of the way, Martin and Co began focusing on the countdown. Where the 2011 New Year’s celebration declaration from the band was a major let-down, due to not getting the timing right, the band were not taking any chances.

The countdown began from thirty seconds and ended with another cracking display of fireworks.

Coldplay took the show home with an endorphin-releasing encore of A Sky Full of Stars and Up and Up. They left the stage with the Du Arena crowd showered in confetti and playing with giant balloons like happy children.

In what was a relatively difficult year for many, we couldn’t ask for anything better.