Despite being the adored, much analyzed and fantasized about lead singer of one of the planet’s biggest rock bands, Chris Martin of Coldplay is practical, even humble about his role.
“It just comes from pure gratitude at being given this job, particularly in a period of time when music is hard to be employed by,” Martin says of the free CDs that Coldplay is giving to concert- goers on their U.S. tour, which kicked off in Florida in May and stops at The Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday night.
“We wanted to give something to the people who have paid money to come see us or buy the album,” he adds, referring to “Viva La Vida,” the best-selling album in the world in 2008. “It’s like a reward system in a grocery store.”
Material sustenance is not what most fans think of when it comes to Coldplay’s music or its live shows, which are known for the passionate connection that Martin makes with audiences. The free CD, “LeftRightLeftRightLeft,” with nine live songs culled from the band’s last tour, is partly an attempt to capture that link.
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“It is like a snapshot of where we’re at at the moment as a band,” Martin says.
Given that Coldplay is returning to the United States so soon after finishing another North American tour last November, audiences seem to like whatever the band does. The combination of Martin’s charisma and emotionally introspective, obliquely poetic lyrics, and Coldplay’s darkly anthemic, lushly melodic music has proved to be potent. The group has grown in stature and sales since debuting in 2000 with “Parachutes,” quickly shooting from indie darlings to the top of the U.S. and global charts. Their third album, 2005’s “X&Y,” sold 8 million copies in the first year, while “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends” sold 6.7 million physical and downloaded copies – stellar figures in an age of free downloads and splintering audiences.
The press, however, has been divided on Coldplay and on Martin himself. The band’s music has been criticized as indulgent and repetitive, while Martin, who is married to actor Gwyneth Paltrow (the couple have two children, Apple, 5 and Moses, 3), is sometimes faulted for being arrogant, a vegetarian, righteously well-behaved, and generally avoiding the classically entertaining rock star behavior.
While social themes don’t inspire Coldplay’s songs, Martin says he feels a responsibility to try to affect the world in a positive way. “It appeases the guilt I sometimes feel for being given such an incredible job,” he says. “I think when you are contributing to or talking about something that you know is important on an activist level, it somehow feels better than if you’re just sitting back taking coke.”