There were fireworks on and off the stage Sunday night as an impressive Coldplay closed the Splendour in the Grass festival in Australia. Like they did at Glastonbury Festival in June, Coldplay used the occasion to test five songs from their forthcoming new album, including the first single "Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall" and uptempo pop opener "Hurts Like Heaven."
The concert in the east-coast hinterland town of Woodfordia was Coldplay's only Australian date this time around. And it coincided with the 33rd birthday of drummer Will Champion, who was presented with a cake and a rendition of "Happy Birthday" from the 15,000-plus fans who packed the amphitheater.
All their big numbers were on show here -- "Yellow," "Clocks," "The Scientist" and "Violet Hill" among them. It's striking just how many hits they've knocked out over the last decade.
Few on hand, however, will forget Chris Martin's subtle dedication to the late Amy Winehouse. During the encore-end of the show, Martin worked the lyrics of "Rehab" into the band's anthemic "Fix You," before a volley of pyrotechnics lifted things a few notches.
The critics who gushed over their performance at Glastonbury would certainly have had similar superlatives to say about this effort. Coldplay have matured into serious big-game hunters.
A capacity crowd had gathered hours earlier to catch the performances of '90s Britpop legends Pulp, which followed sets by fellow U.K. alternative rock acts Elbow and Kaiser Chiefs.
Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker hinted that Splendour may be the band's final-ever show on these shores. "If this does turn out to be the last time we play Australia, it's fitting that we play this as our last song," Cocker told the audience as the band launched into "Common People."
Where the Brits owned the spotlight on the finale of the three-day event, it was American rapper Kanye West who made all the noise in the earlier stages of Splendour. West's opening night headline performance may not have stolen the show -- that honor went to DJ Shadow in the smaller dance-tent -- but he certainly stole an enormous crowd.
In the hours leading-up, a rumor spread through the site that Jay-Z would appear on stage with West. It turned out to be a myth, as was the speculation that rain would fall on the fest.
A comparatively smallish crowd turned out Saturday night to watch the headline set of Jane's Addiction, an eleventh hour cancellation from the 2009 Splendour bill.
More than 60 acts played across the event's three stages. Highlights included sets by hot domestic act Gotye, and buzz bands Foster the People and Friendly Fires. Local four-piece the Jezabels celebrated their recent pan-European signing to the re-launched Play It Again Sam Label with a sizzling Saturday afternoon set.
Splendour in the Grass' position in the middle of Australia's winter is unique on the country's festival calendar, and it's a major draw-card to music lovers from all corners of the country. This year marks the second in which Splendour has taken place away from its traditional Byron Bay base, and ticket sales were down at around 30,000 (the allocation of camping tickets at upwards of Australian $520 -- US$575 -- were sold-out).
Organizers are confident they'll move to a new home in Byron Bay's Yelgun area next time. "We've put forward a very good case and hopefully it will get the tick of approval in the next couple of months," explains Splendour co-promoter Paul Piticco, Director, Dew Process and Secret Service Artist Management.