We start the Alpine Valley show with a rather novel quad-bike escort into the gig. The venue is called Alpine Valley Music Theatre, presumably in reference to the mountains and ski resort behind the stage. The quad bikes escort us past a lodge that’s more than a little reminiscent of The Outlook Hotel from The Shining. We then wind our way through the parking lot and past a pretty cool motor that’s been done up in full Coldplay livery.
When we commandeer a golf buggy a little later in order to get some photos of the car, its owners are gone – doubtless in the venue for the opening acts. One of the guys from the parking lot comes over to tell us that the lady whose car it is has been to see the band eight times in the last few months. The fan fervour stretches even to the license plate. Well done folks!
As we jump back onto the golf buggy, I can hear Elbow starting up inside. It’s their first show with us today and I’m absolutely thrilled to see them again. Getting paid for watching one of my favourite bands in the world – tough old life, eh? I wander out into the crowd and park myself in an empty seat to take some photos. Almost immediately, I spot video director Andy Bramley stood in the "pit" with all the punters down the front.
He points at me and then the stage and then himself and the stage and grins widely. We’re both like giddy kids that they’re here – and we get to watch them play every night. I put the camera down and join him in the pit as the crush to get to the front carries on around us. For a short while, we’re just a pair of punters excited to be down the front watching a band we love. Getting shivers down the spine over a pop group is way too cheesy for cynical old roadfilth like me. There must have been a draught or summat… 😉
Once stagetime comes around, the crowd looks utterly stunning. All of these "shed" venues have a lawn section at the back, but here, the lawn is absolutely huge. Apparently there are 7,500 seated and the lawn tonight has an astonishing 27,000. Not only does that make a pretty hefty total, but the slope upwards is very very steep, meaning that the only thing you can see beyond the last row, is the sky. From the centre of the stage looking out, this effect, together with the huge width of the lawn means that all you can see in front of you, all the way to the horizon, is Coldplay fans. Utterly remarkable.
Not only do they look amazing, but when they all sing as one, it makes a pretty phenomenal voice. When Chris asks them to make the loudest noise they’ve ever heard at the end of Yellow, they do exactly that:
The B-stage is located differently each night, dependant on what space is available in each venue. Tonight, it is on the edge of the crowd’s right side. Given that the crowd is spread very wide tonight, it creates the somewhat ridiculous situation where although this is supposed to be the bit of the show when the band get closer to the fans, for a good deal of people, they’re actually further away. This also marks the part of the show when the heavens open and the rain pours in to visit.
Neither of these facts do anything to dampen the enthusiasm of either the band or the crowd and when Postcards fades and Viva comes crashing in, the eruption of noise is truly ferocious. The rain continues throughout and actually looks rather pretty as it slices through the projector beams over the lawn. I say that, of course, watching it from under a very sturdy stage roof. I have no doubt others found it less pleasing…
Mystic Nick, (audio guru and all round lovely bloke) comes over the comms headset suggesting cutting the power to the C-stage if it gets any wetter out there.
It shows no signs of letting up as Lost! roars across the hillside. Come the end of the song though, the fellas troop off the stage to brave it regardless. In the type of perfect timing that you’d only believed existed in Disney films, they emerge out onto the lawn and the rain kindly gives way.
Chris emerges for the final encore and lifts the clipboard that holds his setlist. He pretends to be surveying an important document. "Well, the results are in folks and it looks like the number one crowd of the Viva La Vida tour so far is……. East Troy, Wisconsin."
Predictably, they go bananas. Just in case you’re wondering folks: no, he doesn’t say that every night.
There’s no quad-bikes on the runner tonight. We’re just up the road from Milwaukee, the home of the Harley, so it’s a full-on biker escort as we whisk smoothly through the night back to the hotel.
Well, I say smoothly. It kind of all grinds to a halt when we get into New York. As usual, Franksy has booked three SUVs and a van to transport the band and all of us hangers-on back to our temporary home. Chris is off on a secret writing mission, so has a helicopter booked.
First, we find there are only two SUVs, then there’s no helicopter. This means cramming all of the band and as many others as possible into the two SUVs while we wait it out for the missing vehicles. I make comfy on the floor, leaning back against the corrugated metal of the aircraft hangar. I unfold the laptop and watch a curious transformation take place.
Franksy, like some pimp-hatted west-country incredible hulk transforms completely. Rather than going green and bursting through his clothes, he goes straight from tour manager to "tour-ettes manager". I’m assuming it’s the limo company on the other end of the phone, fielding more F-words than a kitchen porter in a Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmare.
The following day, I bump into Franksy and his fiance who are lunching. The drama and the anger are plainly long forgotten as he offers me a slice of pizza and enquires as to which timezone I’m in today. I let slip that I’m going for breakfast, which at 3pm reveals that I’ve quite comprehensively overslept.
I arrive back at the hotel to find a message that the front desk has a package for me from Mr. Franks.
I’m thinking of looking for a nice chunky gold chain so I can wear it around my neck in a Flavour Flav stylee. After all, We’s In Nooo Yawwwk BOYYYYZZZZ….