Kaotican Alphabet

Roadie #42 – Blog #153

In which #42 gets his head stapled and Coldplay perform some wonderful webcast shows

I first realise that I’ve done slightly more than just bumped my head when I hold my skull with both hands and they’re immediately soaking wet. Walking through the dusty bullring towards catering for napkins to mop up the blood, the wide eyed stares from the locals reinforces the impression that there was something really very sharp sticking down from the beam I’ve just not quite managed to duck under.

I arrive in catering and grab a fistful of napkins and press them against my skull with one hand whilst mopping up my face and neck with the other. Graham Feast, our lovely Lighting Designer immediately takes me by the arm and steers me to the production office whilst radioing Phil Sharp his crew chief that he has someone “with a head injury here” – and could he please attend with his First Aid kit.

The local promoter has a first aider, who takes over and begins to clean me up. She tries to use some sticky stitches, but informs me that I have too much hair for them to work. Having been follically challenged for some years, I ask for this in writing.

Mr. Paul Normandale, the wonderful fella who designs the set, stage and lighting that the band perform within sits with me as I’m patched up. Paul trained for seven years to be a doctor, so perhaps he’s trying to keep his hand in. He points out quite reasonably, that we’re in the bowels of a bullring, so I’m clearly not the first person who’s been down here bleeding.

The spot I’m in makes for a rather surreal doctors surgery, it has to be said. I’m sat on a plastic chair in an ancient stone corridor. A fork lift chugs up and down at regular intervals belching diesel and churning up the dust. Local crew wander past smoking cigarettes and shouting loudly in a language I don’t understand.

The local doctor arrives and pronounces stitches necessary, recommending an immediate trip to the hospital. The band are due in ten minutes. “Can we just get soundcheck out of the way?” I reason. He’s not keen. Eventually, he relents and I get the full comedy bandage around the head to try to hold me together for an hour or so. I pull my hood up and head off back to the stage.

(Photo courtesy Mr. P. Normandale)

With soundcheck finished, I head off to the Madrid emergency room. The runner from the promoter’s office reckons we could be some time, so heads off to move the van. My name is called almost immediately and I begin to suspect that perhaps the band’s name has been used to hurry things along. This suspicion is reinforced when I make it into the consultation room and what must be every single pretty young nurse in the building appears to have crammed inside.

They all smile their widest smiles as the door opens before looking terribly disappointed to see me amble in with a bandage falling off my head. The runner follows me in, a jolly bearded fellow who surveys the scene and looks wide eyed, before proclaiming to me, “Wow, I think I damage my head too huh?”. He slaps me on the shoulder laughing. I cough and the rest of the bandage unfurls.

I’m informed that they aren’t going to give me stitches. They seem to be having some trouble finding the English translation for what they are actually going to do. Eventually, one of the nurses has a eureka moment and reaches into a drawer, pulling out a stapler and smiling.

I smile slightly less – and then less again when they inform me that they won’t be using anaesthetic.

Eight bent pieces of metal later, I’m heading off back to the venue wondering what’s for dinner.

The show itself, of course, was a pretty big deal. Webcasting live to the world is quite the thing these days and I’m sure many of you saw for yourselves what a night it was.

Well, you’ll have seen most of it, anyway. I’m led to believe that demand for the show was such that the YouTube site actually crashed a few times along the way.

This is always a good sign. It’s the internet equivalent of your gig closing the street down. In some ways, doing things online can feel like shouting into the darkness, wondering if anyone is actually out there at all. A good crash from immense demand lets you know that the world really is interested after all.

More encouragement comes in the fact that a lot of the loudest and most enthusiastic responses in the venue greet the new songs. They’re singing along loud to Paradise and they’re jumping like loons to Charlie Brown. Being as the show is to launch the album, this is a very good sign.

The good signs keep coming. The week rolls on with a Radio 1 show from Norwich. This is being webcast and again, demand apparently crashed the server. The Norwich show is an unexpected belter. Everyone is exhausted and there’s not a little feeling that now the big Madrid launch show is done, maybe we should be backing off the gas a little.

The show reinforces my belief that the best nights are never the ones you expect, they just pop up out of nowhere and surprise you.

We carry on around Europe for another couple of webcast-ed shows and some TV. I’ll be honest here and say that I’m pretty much done in for all of it. Exhaustion before the tour has even “properly started” is a new one on me, but it’s pretty clear that it’s universal.

People are quite literally dropping like flies. I do Europe with staples holding my head together, Hoppy, Chris’s guitar-tech and Coldplay’s longest serving roadie, was injured during the Norwich show and is on crutches. (A man with a messed-up ankle being called Hoppy – the gags write themselves…). “The tour cold” starts doing the rounds and we’re thoroughly into the endurance phase of the album launch.

The Cologne show passes in a blur. The setlist gets juggled and we find ourselves into the encore without the band even having left the stage. When they do leave the stage, it’s unclear whether they’re coming back. I’m by the back door ready for the runner to the airport and Hoppy is joining us to get home for medical attention.

Suddenly, they decide to go back on. They’re going to do Us Against The World and Every Teardrop, apparently. I leg it around the back of the stage and into position to see Chris standing in Hoppy’s guitar world, waiting for a guitar. Given that Hoppy is still struggling to hobble from the back door, it clearly isn’t going to come.

Chris drops down into the piano stool and goes into a completely acoustic version of Speed Of Sound. Where that came from I’ve no idea, but as a true spontaneous encore, it works rather wonderfully.

As has been widely reported, whilst recording the album, Brian Eno presented the band with a set of “commandments” in order that his influence could be felt even on the days when he had something more interesting to do.

One of them which sticks with me, read: “When something is good, it should be tortured mercilessly until it either becomes brilliant or dies”. It’s difficult to avoid the feeling that the current schedule might just have designed with this in mind.

I’m hoping that we’re becoming brilliant. I’m really not too keen on the alternative.