It struck me today that so far we’ve spent time in Wembley Arena, Madison Square Garden and the LA Forum – and yet the tour hasn’t yet officially begun. Either it’s all downhill from here, or this is going to be one hell of a ride…
Somewhat predictably, the week of production rehearsals has passed in the blink of an eye. For the first couple of days, the band were still in the UK. The lighting department replaced them with white towels hung over each mic stand. For some reason, Guy’s mic stand was adorned with a bed sheet, which gave stage left the look of a particularly cheesy Halloween party.
But I digress. Once the band did arrive, it was right down to business. The first couple of run-throughs were somewhat tense, it has to be said. The B-Stage section of the show had been particularly problematic. Nobody has been 100% happy with the way it’s been going. Will has been playing a drumkit about fifty feet in front of the sound system. This means the audience were hearing his drums once when he hit them, again when the audio from the PA system reached them (sound actually travels pretty slowly) and then a third time when the reflections from the back of the arena echoed around again. Everyone was dissatisfied and with the time available to change things getting short, people were concerned.
As is so often the case, a very small change brought a flood of others. Saturday began with the band merrily swinging sledgehammers at the B-Stage. The second drumkit? Gone. The Vox Continental keyboard? Gone. The songs they were going to play down there? History. The entire crew? Very, very confused!
Will had arrived with a tiny electronic drum-pad setup that plays some glorious 808 drum-machine sounds. They kicked into ‘God Put A Smile’ and it was utterly transformed, becoming a tight, almost claustrophobic techno rendition. Jonny twisted a demented new guitar part out of his pink Jazzmaster, the lasers rolled around overhead and all around the arena jaws dropped. It had gone from being the least effective part of the show to a new highlight in mere moments. It’s the Coldplay way. Hours of uncomfortable stress give way to a burst of frenzied creativity and suddenly everyone is excited again.
The guys made their way back to the main stage and hammered through ‘The Scientist’, ‘Speed of Sound’ and ‘What If’ – all stripped down and without the aid of the orchestral studio parts. They sounded all the better for the simpler approach. The songs breathe and come alive without the mass of technology weighing them down. After weeks of adding, adding and more adding, they’re finally stripping away the unnecessary baggage and letting the songs speak for themselves. And this they do, loud and clear.
At 7pm on Saturday night there was a final full show run-through. From where I sit, watching the show on a TV monitor under the stage, it looked like we’ve finally got a Coldplay show. The band were clearly excited and pleased. So much so, in fact, that Sunday was designated a day off! Production Manager Fin announced that the bar down the road from the hotel was open and he was buying.
Somewhat tellingly, pretty much the entire crew still wandered in on Sunday to do some small tweaks and last minute tidying up. We learnt long ago not to let our guard down just because we have a good day. Tonight is the first full show and everyone wants it to fully blow people away. I have to say, I really think it will.