Well bugger me – we made it!
Obviously, now it’s done it seems like it was nothing, but going into it, it felt like there was a lot of potential for trainwreck. We’ve done a complete lap of the planet in just over a week, a bunch of awards show madness, a quick Japanese tour and topped it all off with a mad dash across town into a charity show, getting a whole gig’s worth of gear set up in a matter of hours for an absolute belter of a night.
The Brits rehearsals pass in a blur. There’s an eight hour gap between dress rehearsal and the show, so there’s a move to bail for the hotel. I decide to wait for the second van and kill some time in the dressing room. On the drinks table is a brochure for a bunch of free spa treatments available in the backstage area. Now obviously, these are intended for pop superstars and not grimy roadies, but hell, the band left ages ago. I’m tempted by the spray tan purely for the comedy value, but eventually chicken out, settling instead for a neck and shoulders massage to chase away the long hauls.
After thirty minutes of having my spine re-arranged, I feel so relaxed I can barely stay awake long enough to get back to the hotel. I book an alarm call so I’m ready for the 6pm van back to the gig. Needless to say, I pick up and put down the phone and head back off into the land of nod. By sheer fluke I’m awakened by traffic noise and dive out the door into a cab.
The Brits performance goes pretty well, I think – not that I’d know, as from my spot I can just about see the back of Guy’s bass rig and nothing else. The bass rig did very well though, I thought…
Time then to heave all the gear over to Shepherd’s Bush. Out the back of Earls Court, U2’s crew have kindly let us jump the queue and bring our truck in first. They even give us a hand loading it up – what wonderful gents.
So then, the Shepherd’s Bush Empire show for War Child.
I haven’t done a gig inside Shepherd’s Bush Empire for years. Back when I was last in here, it was the biggest gig I’d ever done. Today though, it looks very small indeed. It’s essentially a theatre. What could be more sensible then, than trying to cram two arena bands onto the tiny stage?
The Killers are first up and in perfect Vegas style, they have a wonderfully palm-tree laden stage set. I’ve never seen these guys live before and they are blindingly good. Indeed, when they steam into Somebody Told Me, the response from the crowd is so huge that it feels worryingly like our fellas’ show will just be an after-thought.
As ever in situations like this, the setlist changes several times in the approach to showtime. Whilst the Killers are on, the tiny corridor beside the stage becomes our crew office as we pore over the current incarnation of the plan and work out just how we’re going to make it work. Will passes through on his way for a watch of the Killers. He leans in to ask Bash a question (entirely unrelated to the gig) and in the belief that he’s come with information on just what the hell might happen later, he’s immediately surrounded by the entire crew, who crowd him like cattle round a farmer with a feed-bag. He’s as non-plussed as the rest of us. We do know that the setlist we have in front of us has had Yellow and I’m A Believer dropped from it though.
The changeover actually goes very smoothly. Credit undoubtedly to The Killers’ wonderful crew and the calm forethought of Kurt our stage manager. Pretty soon, the fellas are on and it’s clear that it’s going to be a special night.
Pretty soon too, the setlist is all but a memory. Chris shouts across the stage that they’re going to do Yellow after all. To me, it makes sense. Just as the last time I worked on a gig here it was the biggest thing I’d done, so too did Coldplay play here in 2000 and I bet it felt huge to them back then. Almost a decade later here they are absolutely blowing the roof off the place with the same song.
The roof went on to go some distance further as the evening (or rather the morning, it being around 1am by this point) progressed. The encore began with a joyous and celebratory romp through Viva La Vida. The sound of a crowd roaring this back at the stage never fails to impress. There’s something though, about the fact that in a venue this size you can actually see the whites of the eyes of the person furthest away from the stage that means that it feels like the biggest New Year’s Eve singalong ever. Not bad for February, I guess.
Chris has promised the best encore of all time and his first weapon to back up those claims is Gary Barlow from Take That. The fellas have been dropping a short version of this into the live set for a while now, so it was pretty inevitable that they’d give this one a shot. The crowd greet Gary with a riotus reception and the party is into full swing. Jon Hopkins is at the piano and it’s one big 1am drunken singalong.
The final blowout comes in the shape of the Killers’ track All These Things That I’ve Done. Suddenly the stage is quite simply awash with folks. The Killers have come up and have plugged into Coldplay’s gear, taken over the drumstool and the piano. Bono, from young Dublin hopefuls The U2s has nonchalantly walked on to deafening applause. Chris has dragged Gary Barlow back onstage. It’s noisy, it’s chaotic – in places, quite frankly it’s a complete fucking mess, but this is exactly as it should be and it’s completely excellent.
I remember weeks ago in the Bakery, Chris talking about doing this gig and mentioning the idea of inviting guests on for a big finale. "It’d be great to turn it into just one big ol’ Brits party" he said. Well, they’ve not just had a party, they’ve had something to celebrate. It was an absolutely belting gig.