Friday the 13th was not unlucky for the 2,000 fans who smiled their way into Avalon last night to see Coldplay. Avalon owner Patrick Lyons said he had more ticket requests to this than for any other show in his history there -- and that includes past dates by a few folks named Prince, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan.
Coldplay is H-O-T.
The British band has sold 16 million albums and won four Grammys in the last five years. And recently, its new single, ''Speed of Sound," entered Billboard's Hot 100 at No. 8 -- the first time a British group accomplished that since the Beatles entered the Top Ten with ''Hey Jude" back in another lifetime (1968).
Coldplay's response was a modest, aw-shucks attitude from the stage last night: ''It's quite extraordinary that we've been away [a couple of years], but people still come out to see us," said singer Chris Martin. The pressures must nevertheless be enormous -- the band's record label was frustrated when the new album, ''X&Y," was pushed back to a June 7 release because the band took so much time in the studio -- and it must be hard to read article after article that labels you the next U2.
The Avalon show, however, was a congenial affair, almost like a casual night at a local bar. Martin and his mates were relaxed throughout -- and they seamlessly stitched new material around such fan-friendly hits as ''Yellow" and ''Clocks." The band still owes a large debt to U2 -- especially with guitarist Jonny Buckland's trebly shimmers evoking the sound of U2's The Edge -- and with Martin singing hypersensitive lyrics that might even make Bono blush.
But the show also revealed Coldplay's increased confidence. Martin was charismatic whether he was playing guitar or keyboards -- and the new songs were mostly gems, such as the piano-riffing ''Square One," the surging ''Speed of Sound," and the soft-toned piano ballad ''Fix You" (about trying to help a someone out of a crisis). Other new standouts were the tender ''What If" (with Martin fretting, ''What if you should decide that you don't want me there by your side?"), and the acoustic ''Till Kingdom Come," a love-pleading, folk-country tune originally written for Johnny Cash.
An advance listen of the new album suggests there may be too many downtempo songs (''Speed of Sound" jumps out as one of the few rockers), but that's a concern for another day. For now, Coldplay just seems happy to be back onstage -- and the bond it attained with last night's crowd was undeniably magical. (Look for Coldplay to next play the Tweeter Center on Aug. 6, with tickets expected to go on sale June 4.)