On August 12, the Olympics closed with a celebration of British music that was, depending largely on your musical taste, a shining reflection of British pop or one step up from the wedding disco from hell. Coldplay – arguably Britain’s biggest global group – were notably absent.
Last night’s Paralympics closing ceremony – styled as a ‘festival of flame’ – exercised the principle of quality over quantity. Instead of the Olympics’s musical revue-style variety show, director Kim Gavin turned over a huge portion of the show to Coldplay, who performed a 16-track set including guest spots from singer Rihanna, joining the band for ‘Princess Of China’ and ‘Run This Town’, and Jay-Z, who guested on the latter and ‘Paradise’. The performance was wrapped around a themed, pagan-style show based on the passing of the seasons, making this a totally unique – and totally bizarre – big budget, high concept Coldplay concert with a cast of 1200. Eat your heart out, Lady Gaga.
In reviewing the performance,The Telegraph describe Coldplay as a “Marmite band” – ie, one of those acts you either love or hate. I’m not sure they’re right. Coldplay are a band it’s easy to feel totally indifferent about. They release a new record: you give it a spin, but you’re not counting down the days to release. They headline a festival: you watch a few tracks, but linger near the back so you can go and check something else out too. Their music is – to use a meek compliment – nice. Chris Martin seems nice. They’re a nice band.
Coldplay’s Paralympic games appearance proved that there’s more to them than that. There are few acts that could imbue this event with the right sense of occasion, few that have the global reach necessary for an event that’s being broadcast, simultaneously, around the world, and few who could rope in the same calibre of big name mates. Who else but Coldplay have Rihanna and Jay-Z – two of the biggest names in the world – on speed dial?
What shone through in Coldplay’s performance is how utterly at ease playing to huge, arena-sized crowds they are, and with it, a sense that they’re not so aloof as to feel like they’re not delighted to be there. They played a crowd-pleasing set packed with more hits than we remember them having, and described the performance as “the biggest night of our lives”.
The Olympics and the Paralympics have given Britain much to be proud about. Coldplay can consider themselves a welcome addition to that list. We asked @NME’s Twitter followers to share their own thoughts on the performance, which you can check out below, along with a few reactions from famous faces.