It’s official: Coldplay are too big for Glastonbury. They’re climbing on the ice cream vans and scaling the back fences to get a view of the stage across a toe-to-tail crowd of 100,000 plus, all waving their light-up wristbands in the air like their own little speck in the world’s biggest Pollock. When this writer saw the band at Wembley Stadium a couple of weeks ago, the tapestry of light they cast across the entire venue was far and away the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen in live music. In a vast field it’s a different experience altogether; the wristbands light up in communal patches, making you feel like part of an artwork you can’t step back and admire. It must look fantastic on the telly.
They arrive to the sound of a speech from Charlie Chaplin’s anti-fascist The Great Dictator that makes the most relevant post-Brexit points of the weekend from 76 years removed: “Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed… do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.” Fireworks erupt, there’s more confetti than Kanye’s wedding, Chris Martin kisses the stage and dives into a euphoric ‘Head Full Of Dreams’. What follows is probably the most bizarre, beautiful and heart-mending Glastonbury set ever performed.
Anyone that still considers Coldplay the most boring band in the world needs to go press the red button. “This is our favourite place in the world,” Martin declares, raising the heavens with ‘Yellow’ two songs in, “we came here a bit scared about the state of the world… but you’ve made us realise people can do wonderful things”. The field lights up with multi-coloured dots as far as the eye can see to ‘Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall’, and we finally feel as unified as we used to on Thursday thanks to Coldplay’s career-long dedication to spectacle – visual, melodic and emotional. It’s just the start of a dizzying journey that will take in a collaboration with a tragic indie band, Eavis karaoke and at least one Bee Gee. If you’re bored by this, you’re already dead.
Boring no; predictable, arguably. Coldplay’s well-honed methods of touching huge crowds – exemplified by Martin melting hearts a mile away with a stunning ‘The Scientist’ – have become so ubiquitous among lesser talents that Coldplay are being punished for the pomp-pop sins of their inadequate offspring, and they’ve been gradually devouring the pop mainstream. If ‘Paradise’ was the turning point, it’s led to sections of tonight’s set that sound like R&B discos, Avicii having a stab at ‘A Town Called Malice’, and full on rave bits that sound like they’re auditioning for £250,000-a-night Vegas DJ sets. But they carry it off thanks to their maximal-as-fuck showmanship and uber-inclusive human touch.
How human? A stripped-back, ambient ‘Fix You’ hugs half of Somerset. An out-of-tune key on Chris’ piano adds endearing bum notes to everything from ‘Everglow’ to ‘Up And Up’. Instead of their usual cover of Bowie’s ‘”Heroes”’, they cover ‘Boys That Sing’ by Viola Beach, the band that died in a car crash in Sweden in February, duetting with video footage of the band “to let them headline Glastonbury for one song”. Chris introduces himself “as you know, I’m Chris De Burgh”. They’re a band built on enormity, that pay tribute and attention to the world’s most important details.
Sign up for the newsletter
Not a second of slack is entertained. ‘Clocks’ stabs you in the chest for four minutes straight. A magnificent ‘Viva La Vida’ stirs our inner bell-chiming revolutionary. Come the encore Martin promises to “pull out some tricks” to close the weekend, and things go seriously crazy. They take a request from Michael Eavis on the big screen to do a song by The Bee Gees, and get Barry Gibb out to play an acoustic ‘To Love Somebody’. Chris then holds a “Glastonbury referendum” to decide if he should leave the stage or remain to play ‘Stayin’ Alive’: finally it’s a landslide for remain. Chris stops a rousing final ‘Up & Up’ midway through musing “we’ve come to the end… shit”, demands to speak to “someone who’s in charge” and gets Michael Eavis onstage to ask for a curfew extension for another song. The song is ‘My Way’, sung by Michael.
Seriously, stop being a dick, go press the red button.
Coldplay on headlining Glastonbury: “We’ll come back until they beg us not to”