Monday, July 17, 2017

Coldplay - A Head full of Dreams Tour (Cardiff, 10th July 2017)

I've been following Coldplay since their Parachutes album came out almost two decades ago. They have steadily grown from plucky indie band to global phenomenon - currently touring the world with a vibrant, impressive stage show equal to other big bands. I know it's not 'cool' to like Coldplay, which is always the way with successful bands. No doubt the hipsters look upon them with great disdain, but I actually do like their music (there, I said it!) and I've liked the way their sound has evolved over the years.

I must admit I wasn't overly excited about seeing them, though. I was looking forward to it, don't get me wrong, just not in the way an obsessive fan might have been. I saw it as a 'fun night out' rather than an 'experience' to tell my grandchildren.

Once things got going, however, I was really glad I came (despite the horrible rain and the lengthy queues). We were up in the gods, literally the last row in the back at the top. A good vantage to see the whole spectacle, but a bit far away to see any detail (plus the giant scoreboard blocked some of the view - see picture). At least we could stand without upsetting anyone and had somewhere to put our stuff behind our seats.

Chris Martin and co. played their most well-known hits, from the first single that catapulted them into the limelight (Yellow) to their most recent ode to positivity and hopefulness (Up and Up).

Whilst the stage and lighting were fairly typical for your big act stadium gig (although very good of course), the standout element was the light-up wrist bands worn by the audience. Alas, we were too late to have one ourselves because they'd all gone by the time we'd arrived. Even so, the effect was striking, bathing the entire arena in whatever colour or colours had been commanded by the production team (e.g. the colour yellow for 'Yellow' obviously).

I didn't know that Coldplay's guitarist Jonny Buckland grew up in North Wales (he was born in London) so it was nice to learn on the night that they had a Welsh connection (even though they haven't played here for seventeen years), which was milked quite a lot. Chris Martin apologised for taking so long to come back to play here and he even performed a little ditty about Jonny and Wales (I can't remember the lyrics exactly). Not only that, they signed off with a rendition of the Welsh national anthem (Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau), accompanied by a couple of choir singers. Turns out Rob Brydon did the honours the day after at their second Cardiff performance. A bit random, but fun all the same.

Having not been to a big concert for a few years (the last one was U2 at the then-called Millennium Stadium in 2009), the presence of smartphones in the audience was really noticeable. A lot of people (myself included) were filming the show, which is admittedly kind of odd. 

I guess it's a natural reaction these days, to capture something you are enjoying, but I think if you're filming something instead of actually experiencing it then you're kind of wasting your money. I did resist the urge to film everything. I just wanted to capture clips (because I knew the experience would be fleeting and wanted to capture at least something of what I'd seen), but made sure I wasn't watching the whole thing through my screen.

At some point during the show, Chris did plead with everyone to put their phones down and just enjoy the moment. He said we could film anything we wanted after, so he wasn't too concerned about people stealing his music.

I've seen a lot of people sharing their videos on Facebook and Coldplay are posting videos from the tour all the time on their page (filmed via smartphone or something similar), so I guess they don't really care about copyright, which is the other issue I was curious about now that smartphones are ubiquitous.

It's something that's impossible to control, given that almost eveyone has a portable TV studio in their pocket these days (ain't that right, Doc Brown?), so I guess the record labels rely on the fact that playing it back on a smartphone will never be the same as experiencing it in person or watching the concert recorded and edited by a professional production crew. If anything, allowing people to record and share their concert videos is just another marketing tool to promote the band.

So, well done and thank you Coldplay for a memorable show. I hope you come back to Wales again - just don't wait seventeen years next time!

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