Coldplay, Entertainment Centre, June 26
THE World Cup has lessons for everyone (apart from the key tip that cynical diving can gain a result). Twenty to 30 years ago there was a handful of elite teams, a slightly larger second tier who could occasionally trouble them and a large swathe of enthusiastic but outclassed performers who made up the numbers and dreamt.
These days the largest group is the second-tier where, thanks to the globalisation of skills and opportunities, most of them can regularly match it with the elite, push them hard and, if opportunity arises, spring a (mild) surprise. There are a lot of good to very good teams. Here is the rub: there still is something indefinable but undeniable that the great teams have which separates them from the pack at crucial moments. Greatness isn't thrust upon them; it's within them.
It is the same in music where globalisation - via music videos, ready access to recorded music and widescale touring - has elevated the standard immeasurably. There are a lot of good to very good bands, but the elite remain few - the likes of the U2s, the Rolling Stones, the Radioheads.
Coldplay have long nurtured the dream of being among the this group. The bands who not only sell well, not only write and play well but who also matter and who can turn a show from a display of skills and entertainment into something glorious.
On their third Australian tour, with the world's highest-selling album last year in their kit bag, with nearly a dozen songs which have seeped into the public consciousness, with the force and thrust that comes from confidence, Coldplay make their bid for greatness.
Opening with the power plays of Square One and Politik and then adding a muscular Yellow, Coldplay set their stall clearly. This was going to be an attacking formation with bass player Guy Berryman and, particularly, heavy-hitting drummer Will Champion, pushing up hard from the back while the creative force of guitarist Jon Buckland crafted elegant and penetrative shapes in the middle, particularly in the climax of Clocks.
Playing alone upfront, an irrepressible Chris Martin bobbed and weaved, searched out the corners and in his polite way demanded and deserved attention. He has all the attributes of a fine frontman. The group has all the attributes of a fine rock band.
What they lack is that bit of magic, that hard-to-put-your-finger-on finishing touch which would have shifted the show from hit-filled, satisfyingly solid and entertaining into transformative.
Coldplay are good. However, for all their qualities and skill, they are not now and may never be one of the greats.