Kaotican Alphabet

Roadie #42 – Blog #115

#42, the bootleg merch and the unexpected Mexican singalong

Coldplay have history with Mexico. The Rush Of Blood tour finished here at the Palacio Des Deportes in 2003. The X&Y tour also finished up here in 2007. Now, we’re putting Viva to bed here in 2010. Of course, there is also the fact that the artist Frida Kahlo was born here – and that she provided so much of the inspiration for the title and spirit of this record. Frida gets shouts out during both of the Mexico City shows. From the B-stage on night one and then (if memory serves correctly) during Politik on the second.

Mexico shows are always a treat, as the crowd are properly berserk. They are incredibly loud – so much so that even though I’m hidden away at the side of the stage and have earphones in, I have to put my hands over my ears at several points because the cheering is so loud it’s making my ears go funny.

The band have also been getting the crowd to do the "Mexican cellphone wave" throughout the tour, ever since Andy and Ben from the video department first came up with the concept. Now, you can be pretty well assured that if you’re going to be asking the crowd to do a Mexican wave, then Mexico City is going to be a pretty special night on that front – which it indeed is. It looks utterly spectacular as the mosquito-cloud of lights sweeps across the stadium.

Mexico is also remembered from previous visits for the huge number of "unofficial" merchandise stalls outside the gig. It’s like a huge Sunday market with stall upon stall (upon stall) selling nothing but bootleg Coldplay gear. (Well, apart from the one that inexplicably has U2, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin posters, but we’ll overlook that for now).

A roadie could easily fill their suitcase with just tat from these bootleg-merch-villages on the edge of the gig – and a quick wander out there to peruse what’s on offer is pretty much essential. I receive an excited phone call from the Oracle, informing me that I simply MUST come out of the stadium for a look. Turns out there’s a stall that seems to be almost entirely stocked with – joy of joys! Bootleg Roadie 42 gear!

One of the customers joining us at the stall, is none other than Mrs. Penny Harvey. As you can see, she is a woman of impeccable taste!

Yes folks, this is Phil "fifth member of Coldplay" Harvey’s mum. Phil’s folks have been with us for the past week or so and delightful people they are too. Penny is credited with being Coldplay’s very first ever fan. In fact, I’m led to believe that Mr and Mrs Harvey were convinced by an enthused young Philip to invest in the production of the Safety EP – Coldplay’s first ever recorded product. I expect that when they gave the band that first step up onto the ladder all those years ago, they had little idea they’d be screaming through Mexico City in a police escort to a stadium full of folks who knew every word.

The shows themselves have a lot to live up to. After the nights the band have done here in the past, we expect a lot from the Mexico City crowd. They deliver and exceed expectations for a great time. The spark ignites early and the shows are alight throughout.

One last thing to mention is the break before the first night’s final encore. The crowd are singing something I don’t recognise. It’s plainly very well known here though, as it gets louder and louder until it’s ringing around the stadium as one huge, almost deafening choir.

Then something happens that I have never before witnessed in all my years of touring. The band return to the stage, walk to the front edge  – and sit down. They’re taking in the scene, soaking up the sound of the crowd singing and looking out at the vast sea of humanity. The band being entertained by its audience.

I had intended to speak to one of the locals to try to find out what the song being sung was and its significance. I also intended to ask the band what possessed them to just wander out to sit down and  watch.

Somehow though, the moment was perfect as it was. It was glorious for the fact that it just came out of nowhere and appeared to have no rhyme or reason. Beautifully surreal. Understanding it could only dilute the memory.

For once, words fail me….