Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
Chris Martin and co bring out the big guns, and pack an arena-sized show into an intimate theatre, to mark the launch of teen-pop new album Music of the Spheres
The promotion of Coldplay’s forthcoming album offers a study in contrasts with that of its predecessor. The experimental double album Everyday Life, from 2019, was announced with typewritten messages sent to fans and classified ads placed in local newspapers. Its showcase gig featured the album played in its entirety, in Jordan, without an audience. Its follow-up, however, features K-pop boyband BTS and Selina Gomez among its supporting cast (collaborators, Chris Martin appears to suggest from the stage tonight, who were suggested by actor Simon Pegg’s 12-year-old daughter) and was produced by Max Martin, the most celebrated of pop’s shadowy super-producers and the co-author of 25 US No 1 singles. Its arrival was heralded by the band literally sending their music into space: lead single Higher Power received its premiere beamed from the International Space Station. The showcase gigs, meanwhile, have taken place in New York, Paris, Berlin and London – albeit at venues that are doubtless smaller than the backstage areas of the kind of enormodomes the band have long called home.
When a band as big as Coldplay perform a relatively intimate show, they have two basic options. One is to strip things down to their understated essence and allow the audience a rare glimpse into the artist au naturel. You get the sense, even before you get inside the auditorium, that this is probably not the path that Coldplay have chosen to take: there are attendants in the lobby handing out the flashing wristbands Chris Martin and co use to create impressive lighting effects in vast crowds. And so it proves: Coldplay appear to have crammed their entire arena production into a 2,000-capacity theatre. There are projections not just on the stage but all over the inside of the venue. There are confetti cannons and a surfeit of lasers. The keys on Chris Martin’s piano light up as he plays, while the singer’s extravagant stage movements are visibly designed to reach Row ZZ of the Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland. The gig’s idea of restraint involves waiting until song three to bring out one of the biggest pop stars in the world: Ed Sheeran, who duets on Fix You, returning later to play three of his own songs (“Some actual big hits,” smiles Martin).