An unconventional audience for a gig – a mixture of teenagers, young professionals, middle-aged hen parties and families with young children – streamed into the O2 Arena on a cold Monday night in December. The diversity was a tribute to the universal range of Coldplay’s appeal; there were die-hard fans who could sing along to every word alongside people tapping their toes to tunes they have loved on Radio 1 for the past six months. Viva la Vida especially has been pulsing through the world’s consciousness since its release in June 2008. The album debuted at number one in 36 countries and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. It was Amazon’s bestselling album of 2008.
So there were high expectations throbbing across the huge indoor stadium, filled completely to its 20,000 capacity, in the electric silence when the lights were extinguished. The well-known introduction to Violet Hill was accompanied by wild screams as the band ran on, holding sparklers aloft, and began an energetic, frenetic, exciting set.
Front man Chris Martin’s all-consuming energy as he threw himself around the stage in his military jacket made the show a delight to watch, as well as listen to. His vocals may have suffered a little for this physical display, but this was part of the joy of seeing Coldplay live. They know most of their audience has listened to all their songs hundreds of times and their infectious joy in playing around with them is all part of the appeal. The atmosphere was at times like a group of mates playing together, and this was compounded by a brief jaunt to a tiny stage in the tiered seating where they performed Green Eyes and Death Will Never Conquer with friend-of-the-family Simon Pegg.
It was a big, lavish crowd-pleaser of a show; with sweeping lasers, paper butterflies streaming from all sides and giant yellow bouncing balloons descending from the ceiling during – guess which song – Yellow. Pianos and keyboards moved across the stage at an alarming rate freeing up Martin to toss his guitar over his shoulder and drum out passionate keyboard solos. The star of the show made this performance, catapulting himself along extended catwalks into the audience, and throwing everything into his microphone.
The eponymous Viva La Vida and the tear-jerker Fix You were the highlights of the evening, with the entire crowd singing along. During the course of the evening, and doubtless throughout their whole world tour, Coldplay managed to bring a huge variety of people together with their anthemic vocals and infectious enthusiasm for their music. Everyone left the arena on a high.
In Martin’s own words, it wasn’t bad for a Monday night.