There’s an old adage in rock music’s touring commandments: you play most venues like Shepherd’s Bush Empire twice, once on the way up and again on the way down. This is clearly weighing on the minds of Coldplay before tonight’s show (Oct 12) – hence why they bring along super-fan and actor Simon Pegg (frontman Chris Martin is godfather to his daughter) to mention that he was here first, back when they played here 21 years ago in support of debut album ‘Parachutes’.
It serves as a humble reminder and a subtle boast, and everyone in the room knows it: it’s a miracle that Coldplay have never had to come back down. This Friday (Oct 15) the band will release their ninth studio album ‘Music Of The Spheres’, and tonight’s show strikes two tones: a warm-up for bigger outings, and a stripped-back celebration of their bold new record. And by stripped-back, we still mean lasers, synchronised wristbands and confetti cannons.
The intimate settings bring out a rawer, rougher and slightly goofier side of the band. With only a few thousand fans to please – as opposed to the enormous crowds they pack into stadiums – they loosen up. Martin’s dramatic dance moves during newbie ‘People of The Pride’ would be as adept on a wedding dancefloor as in Cirque Du Soleil’s floor routines. Their version of ‘Yellow’ is twisted into a folk ditty by a solo Martin; at its conclusion he turns his back to the stage and sings directly to drummer Will Champion, the man who “kept the band together for the last 25 years”. He asks those on the front row if they can refrain from “upload[ing] videos to YouTube of my butt. It’s still a work-in-progress.”
The run of hits they open the show with – ‘Clocks’, ‘Fix You’, ‘Viva La Vida’ etc. – are bolstered by a general smugness of the lucky lot who nabbed tickets. Yes, Coldplay are really playing here and yes, they will play ‘The Scientist’ into ‘Paradise’ like it really is nothing. Their BTS collaboration ‘My Universe’, where Martin indulges in some “GCSE Korean” will no doubt join the setlist fixtures in tours to come. A guest appearance from Ed Sheeran for ‘Shape Of You’ and his latest single ‘Shiver’ only add to the giddy crowd’s big night out.
But the subtler moments are just as rewarding, like ‘Human Heart’ – or ‘❤️’ as it’s listed on the album – and ‘Music Of The Spheres’ sprawling, 10-minute closer ‘Coloratura’. The band jokingly give the audience ample opportunities to knock off and get an earlier train – “has everyone left who wants to leave?” Martin asks – but this is the kind of moment that’s totally unique to a night like this. A soft-rock ballad of twists and turns, it’s the type of song that likely will not survive to their stadium outings, but for those who’ve stuck around for the journey for the past two and a half decades, this is Coldplay at their finest: ambitious, awe-inspiring and wry all at once.
‘Music Of The Spheres’
‘Fix You’ w/ Ed Sheeran
‘Viva La Vida’
‘Adventure Of A Lifetime’
‘Human Heart’ w/ Fleur East and We are King
‘People Of The Pride’
‘Shivers’ – Ed Sheeran
‘Shape Of You’ – Ed Sheeran
‘A Sky Full Of Stars’