Kaotican Alphabet

Roadie #42 – Blog #22

#42 muses on the band's time in Japan

Can it really be a week since we left Japan? Worse yet, I’ve not yet submitted my journals from those shows. "Jetlag" sounds far more glamourous and interesting than "couldn’t get off the sofa", so I’m sticking with that. Somehow though, I think we all know where the truth lies.

In a nice follow-on from the previous journal, I opened my hotel room curtains in Osaka to be greeted by a building in the distance bearing the word "Yodobashi". The very same camera shop I arrived at in Tokyo minus my credit card. Over breakfast, I enlist the permanently Leica-bearing Berryman to join me for a trip over there. I’ve managed to obtain cash and today there’s no stopping me. We both return somewhat lighter of wallet, but laden with photographic goodies.

I’m getting ahead of myself here, though. The day prior to this shopping spree, there was the small matter of a gig in Osaka. This was a rather large outdoor festival. Now, Eastern crowds have the reputation of being extremely reserved. If you were to believe everything you hear, you’d almost expect the shows to be pin drop silence from the crowd save for a polite round of bowing before and after the set. This most certainly is not the case. They’re hands-aloft, bouncing, cheering bonkers right from Life In Technicolour onwards. On previous tours, Coldplay haven’t been quite as well known here as they are in other parts of the world. It’s clear when Viva La Vida kicks in tonight though, that this has changed. The collective roar of recognition is overwhelming and carries on throughout the track. It’s utterly unexpected and quite simply immense. This song has permeated the consciousnesses of so so many around the globe it can’t help but take you a little aback. It takes us completely by surprise and all of a sudden everyone realises it’s going to be one of those nights again.  

The show isn’t without it’s imperfections, however. Tonight’s B-stage section is performed way out on the edge of the stage wings, beyond the PA system and the video screens. Being as this is a huge stadium-sized stage, this puts the band almost in the car park. As Jonny later puts it: "that bit is supposed to be about getting closer to people – and we ended up being about as far away from everyone as it was possible to get".  

Far more effective, is the "C-stage" acoustic section. As in Pemberton, there is a tiny platform right out in the field where the guys suddenly appear halfway through the show. There is a somewhat worrying surge from the crowd as they realise what’s occurring. This itself drives the excitement level up another notch. So much for overly polite and reserved crowds!

Inevitably, Lovers In Japan is utterly mental. "Dreaming of the Osaka sun" indeed! Glorious evening!

The day of the Osaka show is tour manager Franksy’s birthday. This, combined with the location, means that a karaoke night is pretty much inevitable. We meet in the hotel lobby and are driven deep into the city to a tiny club. I stay for drinks, the meal and the "Happy Birthday to youuuu….", but when the songbook starts getting passed around the table and it becomes clear that nobody present is to escape performing, I bail. I employ my now standard karaoke drill of enquiring where the toilets are and then running for dear life yelling ‘Taxi!’ as soon as I get around the corner.

I did catch a rather tremendous Bjork from Vicki, the band’s lovely assistant. Rob from EMI also made a great Beastie Boy. I’m led to believe that other highlights included a rather stunning Michael Jackson from keyboard tech Neill Lambert – complete with dance moves, no less. Drum tech Bash Buttery gave it his best David Lee Roth with Just A Gigolo and so it went on. By this point, obviously, I was in my cab speeding towards the hotel. I have to say, it may have been worth staying just to catch security chief Kelly Samuels giving it some Stevie Wonder, but I guess I’ll never know…

All this fun made for a somewhat quiet ride on the bullet train the following morning, needless to say.

At last, the final checkpoint for this leg came into view. It’s a pretty big one to go out on too. The Tokyo Summersonic festival takes place in a pretty huge stadium. Indeed, it’s the band’s first stadium show on this campaign. As with the Osaka show, the place positively erupts at Viva La Vida. The cavernous echo of the stadium gives the crowd that "jet-engine-at-a-hundred-feet" roar that pins you to the back wall right away.

Coldplay have played stadiums before, as far back as their first record. But I’ve never seen anything like this before. This isn’t a tiny band trying to fill a huge space. Tonight, the songs take on a scale that is truly epic and the band are every inch capable of not only riding it, but working it. Chris is clearly feeding on every crackle from the crowd. I’ve never seen him STRUT the way he did this evening. Even with pretty minimal production the vibe of the show builds and expands until it feels as though the stadium may no longer be able to contain it. It sounds like hyperbole and nonsense writing all this, of course, but I have to say, I’ve been working for the band for a long, long time now and I simply cannot remember a show this exciting. If they don’t do some stadium shows of their own on this tour, I say it’s a crying shame.

What else can I remember? Ah yes, there was a curious Japanese cover tune. Chris has cottoned on to a Japanese pop act who are utterly huge here. As Speed Of Sound fades, he drops into a song completely unfamiliar to all of us, but the bonkers reception from the crowd soon makes it clear that they know every note….

The B-stage section was completely canned tonight and they just ploughed through Sleep Chant and God Put a Smile on the main stage with the full drumkit. Sleep Chant is transformed.  Totally muscular and swaggering with Mr Champion giving it loads up there. The new version of GPAS also kicks like a mule this way. At every turn, this gig gets better and better. Usually, I’d be reminding myself to guard against the cock-up fairy, who tends to visit when you’re most pleased with how things are going. There’s so much momentum and power tonight though, that it truly feels like the gig would be impossible to de-rail. You get the impression that the guys are on such a roll that the PA system could fail, the lights could go dead and they’d still carry on, just them and the crowd, too caught up in the moment to notice anything had changed.

Following another jaunt into the center of the crowd for the acoustic section, the encores begin. Rather than coasting gently to a finish, the ante is upped as Chris introduces Ms Alicia Keys, who joins them for Clocks. She’s sat at the piano next to Chris, who alternates between singing, duetting on the ivories and cooling Ms Keys with a fan that’s been thrown on stage.

By the time Death and All His Friends draws to a close, it’s been a monstrous show. What a way to round out this leg. Japan had been fixed, in my mind at least, as a couple of shows to tick off before home. It’s turned out to be one of the very high points so far – on a tour that’s had more than it’s fair share of great shows.  

It’s been the perfect way to bookend the beginning of the tour. Without a doubt, it feels like we’ve climbed a mountain – and the view from that last show was breathtaking. Now it’s time to head home for a glorious three weeks of resting aching bones, soothing frazzled minds and catching up on six months of fractured sleep.

Talking of which, I have a sofa to attend to….

See you all again very soon.