Kaotican Alphabet

Roadie #42 – Blog #19

In which #42 runs into Barack Obama

After spending the day off in New York, the Hartford show is close enough to drive to. Everyone climbs into a couple of vans outside the hotel and we head off. It’s been a fair old while since the days when the band traveled to every gig by van. The nostalgia for the van days steps up a notch when they pull off the freeway after 90 minutes for a break. ‘Motorway services are as integral a part of any band’s early touring experience as hangovers, smelly socks and lost sleep. Everyone piles out into the sunshine. Ice creams are purchased and grimy vending machine coffee plops its way into paper cups. It could be any band heading to play a divey club anywhere in the world. Except, of course, it’s Coldplay and they’re heading to Hartford, Connecticut to play a sold out arena…

The Production Office is the warm beating heart of the crew’s world in the venue. Not only do Fin and Marguerite have all the answers, but there’s wi-fi here. This means everyone passes through for email and a catch up at some point in the day. In the hour I spend in Production today, a constant stream of crew saying, "Have you seen the opening act? She’s amazing". Now all of the local opening acts have been good, but it’s unusual to get such unanimous glowing praise from roadies. I understand her name was Amanda Kaletsky. Given that roadies are notoriously tough to impress, I guess I’d better check her out. Maybe you should too…

After the acoustic section of the show, I’m standing in the dock behind the stage waiting for the band to get back from way up in the back of the arena to do the encore. Obviously, night to night, the route varies from a simple jog around, to a convoluted route through the bowels of the building. Judging by the look of Jonny when he makes his way around the side of the nearest truck, I’d say tonight has been quite a trek. I’m not sure whether the word ‘knackered’ translates into other languages really…..

Next up, Washington DC. The guys play very well tonight. After the chaotic start to the tour, things are really beginning to settle in now, which is a most welcome feeling. It’s a nice sweet spot between the confusion of constant change and the boredom of repetition. The band are relaxing into the set now, which gives it a very solid and powerful feel. I guess they can finally stop thinking about "what happens next" and finally get on with just playing music. Will in particular turns in a powerful performance this evening. Whether or not this has anything to do with the fact that his pal Taylor Hawkins is in the crowd, nobody is sure. Either way, it feels as though everyone (I’m talking crew as much as band here) is starting to really nail it now – two shows before we go home for a break! Not to worry, there’s probably another hundred or so to go…

I believe I touched upon the concept of the "runner" in an earlier blog. Essentially, in order to avoid getting stuck in the heavy traffic of an arena emptying, the band dive straight off stage into waiting vehicles. They are then sped off into the distance before the house lights have even come on and the punters have even got their coats on. Often, there is a police escort, which adds nicely to the drama. Tonight’s runner is pretty impressive, it has to be said. There’s not only flashing lights aplenty, but as we whizz dart-like down the avenue, each junction has a police car holding the traffic so we can jump every set of lights with ease. It’s only when we turn the corner and start to see the sights that it becomes apparent why things are so slick this evening. We slide past the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial as we head out towards the airport. This is DC and these guys are plainly used to escorting foreign dignitaries and many other of the world’s most powerful men into the White House. Running a few Brits to the airport after a pop concert must be a decidedly small-fry way to spend the night for them.

Notwithstanding, tour manager Franksy still wants more. "Can we keep nice and tight together and don’t let the speed drop please," comes his voice on the radio from the car in front. We accelerate up the freeway to a pace that would give OJ Simpson the sweats and there’s a questioning reply, "What’s the problem? Traffic ahead?". "No," comes the dry-as-a-bone response. "The pizzas have just arrived on the plane and I don’t want them going cold". And with that, Washington slips away behind us.

Somewhat bizarrely, the White House theme continues the next day, as we land in Boston beside Barack Obama’s plane. He’s whisked away before we have a chance to wish him a happy birthday or offer to stick him on the guest list. We’re then caught in the exact opposite side of our journey last night. That is, we’re being blocked at a junction by police cars holding traffic for Mr. Obama’s motorcade. "You might be a big fish, in a little pond…. but along may come, a bigger one…" I believe the song (kind of) goes.

The last day of any tour leg always has a slight feel of "the end of term" (that’s "semester" to the rest of you). Everyone is looking forward to some time off, but at the same time, everyone is going to miss seeing their friends every day. We’ve still got Japan to do before we collectively put our keys in our front doors, but after the immense mountain-climb of work that’s gone into getting the show up on its feet and fighting fit, it finally feels like we’re getting a chance to catch breath.

There was a show tonight, of course and inevitably, the fellas shoulder-charge into it with nothing held back. With no gigs until the end of the week, they don’t need to worry about pacing themselves, they can truly let rip. The crowd do the same, giving it plenty throughout. As the butterfly confetti settles and the encore finishes, it’s time to say "see ya later" to the states and "konichiwa" to Japan. I’ll see you jet-lagged and disorientated in a few days.