Saturday, September 19, 2009

Coldplay at Wembley, 18th September

What would you discharge yourself from hospital for? For me it was 2 things: a wedding today (brilliant sunshine, fantastic couple) and Coldplay at Wembley yesterday, a slightly late 40th birthday present, but well worth the wait.

Call it music therapy, but it was a calculated risk to sign myself out of Yeovil hospital on Thursday night (long story, another post) to trek up to London yesterday. Tube in from Amersham, and after overshooting Wembley on the first train, we finally found it: there was Wembley Way and the iconic arch. After running the gauntlet of ticket touts (they were replaced by mounted police for the journey back) and riding the escalators to level 5, we found ourselves 2 rows from the front of the top balcony, level with what would have been the half way line, but instead was a couple of lighting stacks and some strange yellow objects under tarpaulins (ballons, released during Yellow).

3 support acts - White Lies were noisy for the 1 song we heard, Girls Aloud suffered from a) not having much stage to play with b) being on in daylight, so no chance of lighting effects and c) a dreadful sound mix, with drums, muffly bass, voices and not much else. They had a go, and you had to feel sorry for the vision mixer who tried (and mostly failed) to keep up with which one of them was singing at the time. Call the Shots was great, but no quantity of faux-seductive pouting could make up for the sound quality. We were 100m away, so it probably sounded better at pitch level. Shame, we were really looking forward to seeing them.

Next came Jay-Z, cue time for me to go and queue for some food: if I want to be shouted at by grown men then I'll take up refereeing for kids football. But no food: somehow Wembley hadn't worked out that if people are there from 4pm - 11pm, they might want to eat a meal during that time. None of the amply staffed food outlets had anything to sell except £6 pizza slices, despite advertising fish and chips and all sorts of other stuff. Back to Jay-Z, who wasn't that bad for a rap artist (you can tell I ain't part of the 'hood), great band behind him, and a woman with an incredible voice who came on for 1 song. It's probably a global no.1, but the days when I taped the top 40 are long gone.

Hats off to the roadies, who did some very quick changeovers between the support acts: we got 45m each of Girls Aloud and Jay-Z, who finished his act by singling out people in the crowd to pay complements to - big job when 70,000 are watching. Then not long after 9 the sound system switched to Oasis (Acquiesce), then the Blue Danube Waltz, then down went the lights and here we go.

Having not been to a major gig for years, it was spectacular. The sound was fantastic, the lighting was awesome, and if Coldplay were tired at the end of several months touring they didn't show it. The instrumental Life in Technicolour was followed by a series of singalong favourites: Clocks, Yellow, Violet Hill, In My Place, Glass of Water. Very clever bit in Yellow, where Chris Martin 'asked' Simon Cowell to comment on the quality of the crowds singing, and showed clips of some of his X Factor put-downs. Martins sense of fun and joy is infectious, and despite the fairly limited banter between songs, and the massive venue, everyone felt involved.

The second part of the set did some 'interesting' things: a techno medley (God Put a Smile on Your Face, and Talk) from the end of one of the walkways, followed by an acoustic set on a small stage towards the back of the pitch, where the band were joined by actor Simon Pegg on harmonica. The cover of Billie Jean was unexpected and good for a giggle, but there was a bit of a loss of momentum. Then back to the mainstage for a rib-jangling Politik and Lovers in Japan, which had everyone on their feet, and confetti butterflies being sprayed across the stadium. The encore of The Scientist/Life in Technicolour 2 finished with fireworks, and a happy crowd singing the 'whoa oh oh's from Viva la Vida all the way down Wembley Way.

Discovered today that Oxfam were shadowing the tour as Coldplays special guests, but there wasn't anything at the show yesterday to highlight that. Their CD notes regularly encourage support of things like Fair Trade, but there was no attempt by Coldplay to use the stage as a platform for causes. Personally I'd have been thrilled if they had done, there's no need for U2 to corner the market in this. We also missed out on our free giveaway CD on the way out, so I'll just have to listen to LeftRightLeftRight on Spotify instead.

Minor quibbles: bit too much swearing from Chris Martin, and I'd have loved to hear more tracks from X&Y rather than Simon Peggs harmonica, but hey, they're a world renowned band and I'm not, and there's probably a good reason for that. On another occasion I'll probably do a 'compare and contrast' on corporate singing between Coldplay, weddings and church, but this post is long enough already....

Other links
here's the setlist
Youtube clips
lots of great photos on Flickr, from where I got the one above.
Review on BBC6

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