The last time Coldplay performed at Camden’s Dingwalls was on 25th May 1998. Fresh from a name change (they previously answered to ‘Starfish’), the band were celebrating the release of the ‘Safety’ EP. Tickets cost £4, the room was half full and there’s a high possibility that Chris was sporting a yellow t-shirt with some vintage styled text like ‘Puma State 1948’ across it.
Unsurprisingly, a fair bit has happened to the band in the 14 years that preceded that gig. For starters, Chris tonight wears a bright blue Oxfam t-shirt, the show is attended by 500 competition winners who were plucked from 60,000 entrants, and it turns out Jo Whiley is compering the evening.
However, Chris’ bulging blue eyes remain the same as they’ve always been, retaining the same glint of deranged energy as a pumped up toddler. Right now they’re glistening with a strange hybrid of anxiety and pleasure as he realises his fans are a mere metre away from him. Tonight Coldplay are graspable.
This Radio 2 show is a total one-off for the group, who headlined Glastonbury in front of 300 times more audience members than tonight. Their songs contain the kind of choruses designed for only stadiums, cathedrals or a Jay-Z birthday party, not a dingy little North London room, and this shift in capacity evidently jolts their flow initially, “This is worse than 14 years ago,” Martin admits after a false start on opener ‘Hurts Like Heaven’. “We fucked that up. Come on! We’re a professional band for fuck’s sake.”
Playing a setlist which spans their five albums, Martin manages to perform ‘Yellow’ for the trillionth time with all the zeal of the pubic-headhaired frontman BG (Before Gwyneth), whilst ‘In My Place’ unravels beautifully in all of its yearning melancholy. The laserless ‘Clocks’ still stands tall as the scaling piano bathes the audience in a cool wave of euphoria, whilst ‘Paradise’ sounds as absurdly gargantuan as it does on record. Hearing ‘The Scientist’ up close just serves to highlight how incredibly bizarre it is to be able to see the band mere metres away, right in front of you, not on a screen 4,000 miles away as you stand next to a hotdog stall. It’s a bloody privilege.
Gradually, you sense, the band start to ease into their contained surroundings. Just about, anyway: “It’s so fucking small. I’ve got more cousins than this,” Martin exclaims before their encore, “We’re used to lasers and posh stuff, and now we’ve got nothing but our instruments and our handsome bass player.”
Tonight, with just instruments and their handsome bass player, Coldplay cement exactly why they are deserving of their record sales and sell-out tours. They are one of the biggest bands on the planet, not because they are inoffensive or easy to digest, but because under the graffiti and military gear, Coldplay are a truly excellent band.