Monday was a difficult day for many, when we all woke up to the news of what is now considered the worst mass shooting in modern United States history. Late Sunday night, 58 people were killed while attending the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas. It was a tragic nightmare for all of us, and the news just kept coming. Hours later, word spread that legendary songwriter Tom Petty had suffered cardiac arrest. Later that day, the world lost him, too.
Coming to Coldplay's show that evening, many people were looking forward to the night. However, there was a cloud of despair hanging over the thousands gathered in the Rose Quarter arena. The events of the day echoed throughout the minds of the crowd, and it was all felt achingly by the headlining band.
As the lights dimmed for Coldplay’s set, the band took the stage in silence, opting out of their usual extravagant entrance. Chris Martin took to the mic.
“It’s a very strange thing to consider how to go about playing a concert on a day like today,” he said. “We felt like the best thing to do was to just send out your love and our love into the world before we start the concert. I know everybody’s probably got the same things on your minds that we have on our minds. We thought what would be nice to do is to start by everybody turning on their lights on their cell phones and we’ll just have a minute of silence just to send our love to everybody in Las Vegas and Puerto Rico, everybody who needs it right now.”
The crowd lit up the venue with the lights of their phones. The arena became a sky full of stars, each light shining bright in solidarity. The arena was swept with silence. For a solid minute, the band stood arm in arm on the stage as the crowd soaked in reflection over the day’s events.
As the band later tweeted that night, “When words fail, sometimes quiet is the most eloquent.”
The minute of silence ended with an abrupt cheer. The arena soon filled with applause, as the lights went out and the chords of the band’s first song rang out: that familiar strum of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.”
Joined on stage by Peter Buck of R.E.M., Coldplay began the show with an ode to the American legend. As Martin sang the familiar chorus, the entirety of the arena joined in. Some cell phone lights flickered back on in the crowd, lighting up the arena once again. The beauty of the vigil of lights and the chorus of voices was a powerful and cleansing beginning to a beautiful night.
As Martin said at the beginning, it was difficult to know how to go about being at a show following the tragedies of the day. But by choosing to begin their show in this way, Coldplay let us all acknowledge the pain and be in the moment together.
As the band and Peter Buck wound up their Petty tribute, Martin addressed the audience once again: “Thank you, everybody. Let’s start the show.”
At his cue, the house lights went dark and the room was filled with color as the Xylobands that were handed out to every audience member upon entry illuminated.
Color and music burst forth as the band started into the title track from their latest album, A Head Full of Dreams. Chris Martin became the embodiment of their music as he performed, and the beautifully complex production let him give his all. As he jumped about the stage, the room exploded in a rainbow of confetti upon the first chorus. Every member of the crowd became part of the light show as the Xylobands upon their wrists twinkled and sparkled to the music.
Monday was a tragic day for us all. Waking up and walking around knowing what had happened was a heavy feeling, which the band acknowledged. And as their massive two-hour set went on, we all left with pure joy, colorful memories, and a love for life like no other.