Coldplay v Radiohead
Dazzling stage presence ... Coldplay has got its mojo back. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Seriously, you wait years for the world's biggest acts to perform in Sydney again, and then a whole bunch of them come along at once.
Between November 12 and 18 we'll play host to pop legend Elton John, eternally popular rootsman Ben Harper and alternative hero Beck. Dwight Yoakam and Emmylou Harris will be here for country-lovin' types, and Refused will thrill fans of hardcore punk. As far as proper hugeness goes, however, all of these (except for maybe Uncle Elton) pale in comparison next to the two acts whose shows bookend this period: Radiohead and Coldplay.
Unlike Radiohead, Coldplay have always unashamedly wanted to be the biggest band in the world.
So we decided to pit the Britrock heavyweights against each other in an attempt to find out who's best (and who you should have spent your hard-earned dollars on if you could only afford one).
Round One: The story so far
Coldplay Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman, Will Champion.
Coldplay looked like being a one-hit wonder when 2000's glorious Yellow gave them instant success, but they followed it with a memorable debut album in the Mercury Prize-nominated Parachutes that same year. The 2002 follow-up, A Rush of Blood to the Head, was even stronger, with its stadium-size pop (Clocks) and sublime ballads (In My Place, The Scientist). The band stuttered a touch with their attempt at incorporating electronica into their sound (on 2005's X&Y), but have since almost effortlessly rediscovered their mojo. Their dazzling appearance at this year's Paralympics closing ceremony in London certainly didn't hurt their cause.
Career score 9/10 Coldplay have been remarkably consistent in sustaining their position at the top of singles and album charts worldwide. And live, as well, they are eternally reliable crowd-pleasers.
Radiohead Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, Colin Greenwood, Phil Selway.
Radiohead broke out of their native Oxford in 1993 as a band set to be a one-hit wonder with the single Creep (from the otherwise underwhelming album Pablo Honey). Then, of course, they showed they could write entire collections of breathtaking alternative rock with the knockout one-two punch of 1995's The Bends and 1997's OK Computer - the latter widely, and deservedly, considered one of the greatest albums in history. Rather than further pursue those earth-shattering alt-rock lines, however, Radiohead decided to experiment with their sound, adding, for example, an electronica influence. ''Genius!'' cheered some. ''Cop out!'' booed others.
Career score 8/10 We preferred Radiohead when they wrote songs we could, you know, whistle - even though their Hail to the Thief tour in 2004 proved they could still be mesmerising (and even fun!) live when focusing on their later output.
Round Two: Who's bigger
Unlike Radiohead, Coldplay have always unashamedly wanted to be the biggest band in the world - and have audibly tried to make each album soar higher musically and further commercially than its predecessor. They haven't always succeeded, but even then, the ''disappointing'' follow-ups in question have boasted the memorable likes of Fix You, Talk (both from X&Y), Princess of China and Paradise (from this year's Mylo Xyloto). Sure, Coldplay haven't sold out their Australian tour - yet - but then, they are playing stadiums rather than arenas. 9/10
The artistic and commercial triumph of OK Computer meant Radiohead could do pretty much whatever they wanted afterwards … and that's exactly what they've been doing, from fourth album Kid A (2000) through to this year's eighth, The King of Limbs; the band even let fans pay whatever they wanted for 2007's self-released In Rainbows. Album sales have steadily decreased this side of the millennium, but then it's not like Radiohead have been pumping out hit singles to promote them. And they still sold out their entire Australian tour in minutes. 8/10
Round Three: Who's cooler
It must be said that Coldplay's fourth album, Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008), is up with their best. It must also be said that their decision to design their own stage outfits based on its Spanish Civil War theme made them look ridiculous. Did they learn from this? Apparently not. They're sporting some dubious threads in line with the DayGlo graffiti artwork of Mylo Xyloto. Frontman Chris Martin is a handsome, smiling, proper pop star and proud of it. Then again, so is Justin Bieber. 4/10
To Radiohead, the idea of a good publicity shot finds them in blurry monochrome looking like they just buried someone in a forest. No one knows, or cares, much about their private lives. You don't even really see them anywhere except on stage and staring enigmatically from magazine covers. It really is all about the music for Radiohead and, given they get to make whatever sounds they want, safe in the knowledge that most fans will still buy their music and most critics will wet themselves, they couldn't be cooler. 10/10
Of course, this is going to be contentious - especially when the deciding factor is that nebulous concept of ''cool''. But even though, when it comes to critical appraisal, Radiohead are a touch overrated these days and Coldplay are somewhat underrated, we think it's a fair result. After all, you have to admire Radiohead's outside-the-box adventurousness and ability to sustain their exalted position without playing the standard industry game. Not to mention that, as much as we love A Rush of Blood to the Head and Viva La Vida …, we wouldn't want to live in a world without The Bends and OK Computer.
COLDPLAY - 22/30
November 17-18, 5.30pm, Allianz Stadium, Moore Park, scgt.nsw.gov.au, 13 28 49, from $99.
RADIOHEAD - 26/30
November 12-13, 7.30pm, Sydney Entertainment Centre, city, www.sydentcent.com.au; sold out.
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