It’s not uncommon for me to have little idea of where we’re going or what we’re doing. It’s actually quite easy to fall into this state and once you spot it starting, it can be fun to nurture it as a way of keeping things interesting. Conversations in the airport departure lounge this morning clue me in that we’re heading off to Italy. Well that’ll be nice.
Upon landing, soundman Dan Green asks me if I know what songs we’re doing.
“Um, just the regular set, I think or something like?”
In my mind it’s another album launch show, so I’m expecting a small venue, perhaps something like the hall we did in Cologne a while back.
“It’s a TV show isn’t it?” Dan replies, confirming that I do indeed have no idea what’s going on.
We head off in the van towards the gig and I’m now thinking “TV studio, blacked out warehouse, lots of lights hung from the roof”, pleased that I’m now on the right track.
Or, as it turns out when we arrive – not.
We’re in quite the oddest television studio I’ve ever seen.
It looks like Live At Pompeii – and indeed the driver tells us that Pink Floyd did once play here. It’s a huge film lot – Italy’s Hollywood, we’re told. Apparently many of Fellini’s films were made here. The surroundings are utterly magnificent, but turn out to be completely plastic and held up by rusty scaffolding. There’s a joke in there somewhere about working in the music industry, but I shall leave that as an exercise for the reader…
Following soundcheck, Hoppy (still living up to his name with the help of a foot-cast and crutches) quite reasonably points out that the environment feels more suited to Viva than the new album. He suggests calling Paris, the band’s graffiti artist in residence and having him Mylo the place up a little.
I take a photo of the scene on my iPhone so I can email it to Paris with a wind-up message of “This all needs doing by stage-time which is 9.30 – can you get on a plane asap?”.
I remember though, that he got a call with genuine brief not dissimilar to this just before Saturday Night Live a week or so ago (and came through in grand style!) – so I think better of it.
There’s a scramble in the run-up to showtime as the fellas have decided to throw in a few off-air numbers to warm up themselves and the crowd. Yellow gets a belting as do Clocks and Every Teardop. There’s some confusion over time limits and they sneak in Fix You before things have to stop to make sure that the broadcast timing works out.
Come time for the live segment of the show and nobody quite knows what’s going on. The host of the show is going to “throw” to the band from in the studio and they’ll start playing. I’m not sure if he’s off behind the ruins somewhere, or if he’s even in the same city as us – he’s just a disembodied voice yabbering manically in Italian down all of our earpieces.
The allotted time comes and goes and he shows no signs of introducing the band. The crowd have started the Viva chant and the band are distractedly playing along with them while the stage manager runs around frantically trying to keep everything from slipping further into chaos.
Suddenly, the yabbering in my ear starts to contain words I recognise. One of those words is “Coldplay”. The crowd erupt, the stage manager is waving his arms around like he’s just stubbed his toe in the night and Paradise comes to life on the stage.
As the song finishes, it transpires that the crazy presenter is in a building a hundred yards from the stage and they’re to be interviewed down there.
I follow them in the back door for a look. All I can make out from the TV monitor is that Chris has a somewhat insanely snazzy jacket on, which it seems once adorned the crazed presenter.
Finally, it’s vans and airport. We sit in a small room whilst the passports are dealt with. The makeup artist was in something of a rush it seems, getting the band ready in the moments between the stage and the TV studio. Will is sporting a quite hilarious two tone face where she finished halfway across his neck.
“Does anybody have some makeup remover or perhaps a garden implement?” he enquires gesturing towards the thick layering of foundation.
Besides make-up removal, there’s a more serious issue afoot. I’ve somehow ended up on an email cc list for the flight information between the travel agents and Franksy. There’s no real reason for me to be on this list and it feels a little like eavesdropping for much of the day.
What I have picked up though, is that fog is a huge problem back in England. The London airport we took off from is completely pea-souped and we will definitely not be landing there. This is a shame, as that’s where my car is. It seems that we’re heading for Gatwick instead, which could make for a late night.
As we get ready to take off, more emails come in and it sounds like Gatwick might be similarly out of the question. Plan C is being bubbled up. We’re a good way into the flight when Franksy is summoned by the captain for a chat up front. This can’t be good news.
I raise an eyebrow as Franksy heads back down the plane. “Manchester” he says rolling his eyes. At this rate, we’ll be in Scotland when we get wheels down.
We eventually descend and while we taxi across the tarmac, I’m trying to work out exactly how we’re going to get home from Manchester to London. It’s a four hour drive and it’s knocking on 1am already. As we cross the tarmac, I look up to read the sign on the tower which reads “Welcome to Birmingham”. Now I really am confused.
Still Birmingham is a good chunk closer to home than Manchester, so that’s good news. We bundle into some hastily assembled cars here waiting to take us home via a very foggy Motorway.
Never a dull moment…