by Alan Sculley

This past December, Coldplay was in the United States playing a series of radio-sponsored shows. The English group had gone through this ritual once before - a way of saying thanks to the stations that have supported their music - roughly 18 months earlier.

Those earlier gigs weren't an entirely pleasant experience, even though the group had begun building a sizeable American following with "Yellow," the hit single off their debut 2000 CD, Parachutes.

One such show was particularly painful. Placed on a Washington, D.C., bill alongside the likes of metal acts like Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit and punk-popsters Blink-182, Coldplay and its more atmospheric brand of pop bombed and the group got pelted with bottles by the crowd.

But Coldplay (appearing at the Gorge this weekend) came back for the second round of radio concerts and the band's experience this time says plenty about how life had gone for Coldplay in the 20 months since that previous radio fest appearance.

"They went really well this year," Coldplay drummer Will Champion says of the radio shows. "Of course, you don't get much time, so you only get like a 30-minute set. Also, we were headlining this year, so we knew if there was anyone left in the arena, they would be there to see us."

The fact is, Coldplay hasn't encountered much hostility in any form other than occasional sniping from a music industry peer. Alan McGee, the man who discovered Oasis, labeled Coldplay "bedwetters," and there's been the usual expected backlash that the British music press seems to launch against any British band that quickly rises to major stardom.

After watching Parachutes become a modest hit in the United States, the group returned last summer with their second CD, A Rush of Blood to the Head. The CD immediately garnered sparkling reviews and ended the year on many best album lists for 2002. A Rush of Blood to the Head showcased a band that had grown more accomplished, and mined plenty of fresh musical territory in the process.

Where Parachutes had been defined by ballads that were often atmospheric, fragile and melancholy, A Rush of Blood to the Head introduced a considerably bigger and bolder Coldplay sound.

The opening song, "Politik," immediately sets a tone with its pounding piano and dynamic sound. The edgier, expansive sound carries through to several other songs, such as "In My Place," "Clocks" (a current top 30 hit) and "Daylight" -- all of which feature graceful melodies built around Martin's grainy yet passionate vocals and shimmering accompaniment on guitar and piano.

"It wasn't a methodical, kind of clinical, contrived difference," Champion says of the rockier sound of A Rush of Blood to the Head. "It was the product of playing live a lot, as well as listening to different types of music and just being together as a band and traveling the world for two years."

Champion says in creating A Rush of Blood to the Head, the band was driven to take a major step forward artistically, while also delivering a message to those who doubted the group's talents.

"There was an aspect of, 'We'll show you,' definitely, more to the people who already liked us than the people who were giving us [grief]," Champion says. "'We'll make you proud of us.' That's the sort of attitude we had."

Men on a Mission -- Gone are the days of larger-than-life rock super-groups and sexually charged, pyrotechnic-laced stage performances. These days, the Spokane Arena is playing host to the likes of Third Day, an avowedly Christian band. And as one great brother of the blues once put it, "We're on a mission from God."

Christian music, more specifically Christian rock, has become a highly marketable commodity over the last decade. As more and more of society seeks solace in religion, the potential to hit it big as a Christian act has increased exponentially. Enter Third Day.

Based in Atlanta, this five-piece's original founders, Mac Powell and Mark Lee, came together in 1991. The initial draw was a creative outlet for like-minded religious musicians seeking to build music that embodied their collective piety. Things were rough in the beginning, as is the case with many fledgling bands. After nearly four years and some line up changes, the group finally secured a steady roster with the core of Powell and Lee joined by Brad Avery, Tai Anderson and David Carr (guitar, bass and drums, respectively). After a period of toiling hard at their craft and working the regional faith-based music circuit, in 1995 the band signed with Gray Dot Records and as they sarcastically put it, "made it big."

The following few years brought further success and national exposure, aided and abetted by their touring with those Christian pop powerhouses, The Newsboys, further solidifying Third Day's place in the ever-growing genre.

They've raked in numerous Dove awards (given to outstanding acts from the Gospel Music Association), helmed highly successful headlining tours and undertaken almost a decade of touring. (A steady backbeat, six strings and a praise song can take you far in this business.) Their last studio album, Come Together, picked up a Grammy for Best Rock Gospel Album, and the list goes on and on.

This past year has seen the band cater more to their fans. After continued requests, the group released Offerings II: All I Have To Give, a live collection of praise songs intended for the more worship-oriented listener. To date, the album has been wildly successful and spawned a DVD accompaniment. The concept of this album was for the band to go back to what originally sparked the motivation for the music, a desire to edify. The other, perhaps unintended result of this album is the communication of the group's energy and sound in a live setting. Known for a varied and diverse live show, Third Day successfully translates its southern-style roots rock with precision on this record.

With shows at venues such as the Tacoma Dome and the Rose Garden in Portland, it's easy to see the success the band is enjoying. However, the mainstream accolades and critical acclaim may prove to be too much for a band rooted in faith. The conventional music machine wants controversy, wild tales of rampant drug use and a flaming end to a promising career. All this pressure may prove to be the breaking point for a band like Third Day. Then these guys could plow even more new territory: the first Christian band to end up on Behind the Music. -- Clint Burgess

Publication date: 05/22/03

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