Years ago, my parents bought Viva la Vida (or Death and All His Friends) for me as a gift. My room, then, was very different – juvenile items lay strewn endlessly upon the floor, my bed faced in the opposite direction. I still owned Yu-Gi-Oh cards. One of the most vivid memories I have of my early adolescence is one of lying stock still upon my bed, cheaply bought earphones wormed deeply in-ear, blaring through the album from start to finish. It was, in some respects, my first love, and the first album I ever listened through, top-to-toe. The pattering synths that open its first track and close its last, fading to black; the nostalgia driven lilt of Lovers in Japan and Strawberry Swing; the darkly crooning, sheer force of Violet Hill and Cemeteries of London. Then, the breathtaking title tracks, Viva la Vida and Death and All His Friends – the former being a huge hit at the time, the latter a song that I still can’t manage to shake: my undisputed favourite. In all respects, it was, and is, a belter of a record.
The love affair continued; I listened through and purchased each album, and took pride in my collection. Then, when I had worn the songs through, firmly engraving my brain with their hooks, melodies, licks and riffs, I sought out the obscure E.P.’s, the B-Sides, the unofficial recordings. Then, still utterly hooked, I branched out, blindly grasping for another band that spoke to me in the way that Coldplay did, another album to wind its way beneath my skin. There are similar bands, related acts, and other musicians and groups that interest me in different ways for different reasons. Radiohead, Muse, The Temper Trap, Young the Giant, and Foals (a more recent obsession) to name a few. Coldplay has had a ridiculous influence on my music taste, and, in many respects, set a standard in my mind for other bands and artists to achieve. Not in terms of musical complexity, or similarity in style, but in their ability to claw at my heartstrings – not merely pull at them.
In the course of the last 9 years, the years since the album’s release, an unbelievable amount of people have near-spat at my music taste for liking Coldplay. My views have been discounted at the mere mention of them:
“Who’s your favourite band?”
“Ah. Says it all, really.”
Over time, I silenced myself, didn’t mention them for fear of a slagging. I had forgotten how much I genuinely love their music, and how they make me feel – it’s a shame, really, that I allowed others to dictate my tastes for so long.
Fast-forward to Friday afternoon. I slept in until 2, ate a slice of toast, then cleaned myself up. I threw on a pair of jeans and the Foals t-shirt I bought at their concert in Cork a year ago, almost to the day. Emily and I were texting, and she mentioned, off the cuff, that her work-colleague was selling a Coldplay ticket. I replied, asking how much the ticket was and when the concert was on: I had driven any thought of going to the concert away months ago, and hadn’t really been paying attention to when they’d be playing. She told me “€70, and tomorrow.” I told her I would get back to her, half-entertaining the idea, knowing that I had work at 7AM on both the Saturday and the Sunday.
I gave the office a call, and was told, flat-out, that there was nobody available to swap the hours with me. Deflation. I paced, indecisive and anxious, weighing it up. I then decided that a mistake must have been made, and immediately sped to work to negotiate. My manager told me there wasn’t a way, and that she was sorry. The frustration was bloody palpable. She then said what I never expected to hear:
“Buy the ticket, and go to the gig. As long as you’re in work on Sunday morning, I don’t mind one bit. Do it.”
I bought the ticket, then booked bus and train tickets, and what began as a dreary half-Friday, became a frenzy of excitement, suspense, and utter disbelief. I had bought a Coldplay ticket 24 hours before they were due to play. You’d think that after being infatuated with a band for the better part of a decade, almost half of my life, that I’d have expressed more emotion, but all I could manage was to pace crop-circles around my room. My mind was numb and shell-shocked. It was set to be a long, rewarding journey – a last minute caper, make or break, to the gig of my life. I didn’t even know who the support acts were.
Work flew, and I swept out the door into the blistering sunshine. The bus snaked its way through the heart of the country, swinging past a flurry of villages and towns, grass banks and rivers, stone dams, cathedrals. I scarfed my chicken roll and Snickers, still not fully grasping the situation. It was incomprehensible to me, I couldn’t process reality.
I arrived in Dublin, and was landed immediately into her throbbing crowds – pulsing throngs of tourists swinging shopping bags; a whirlwind of glass and Guinness. Through O’Connell Street, weaving my way further from the Liffey. Crowds were building, and the noise was lifting – ticket touters shouted at the masses, vendors flogged t-shirts, flags, and novelty hats, and a tide of dreamers streamed towards the stadium. I could feel it now. The visions I’d had in a decade’s worth of daydreams were to be realised. I could hear the chants, and they hadn’t even begun yet.
Above: The stage before the band’s entrance
Below: A light engineer, the unsung hero, climbs the rigging to his station
My seat was located in the Cusack Stand Lower, at a slight diagonal from the main stage. On account of my being late, I wasn’t given a Xyloband* by the stewards (a watch-shaped wristband that lights up throughout the show*), but the couple seated next to me had managed to rob a spare one and were kind enough to give it to me. In my seat at 8:30, Guinness in hand, I felt liberated. It still hadn’t hit, though. Those around me sat content, cooing about the band, the great night we were in for, and snapping infinite pictures in the meantime.
O mio babbino caro, a delicate Italian opera piece, blared through the speakers and muted the crowd initially. Showmanship. This was followed by an excerpt from the poignant, incisive words of Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator. The timid crescendo of A Head Full of Dreams built innocuously – we could taste it. The air grew dense with anticipation, our craning necks and ravenous eyes collectively inspecting the stage before us, scanning for movement, craving even the glance of a jagged shadow.
Then: triumph. Croke Park erupted in delirium, lights flaring, deafened in rapturous applause. We were consumed by hysteria, as Coldplay sprang into action in a haze of sun-kissed smoke, Chris Martin bellowing:
“oh I think I landed/
where there are miracles at work”
In that moment, and in the hours that followed, I certainly felt that way. Each of the men beamed at our awe-struck faces, expressions as vibrant as the scintillating lights that pulsed above our heads. Yellow, the breakthrough song from Coldplay’s debut album, Parachutes, came next. I roared the first verse at the figures in the distance, in a vain attempt to connect with them. “Maybe if I shout loud enough, they’ll look at this very spot in the corner of the stadium. Somehow, they’ll see me.”
Suddenly, I was bawling; it had finally hit. I’ve never once cried at an event. No other moment at a concert had ever connected as resoundingly as this. I was a mile away from the stage, each band member a mere shimmering spec in my line of vision, but none of that mattered – I choked through the chorus, subtly wiping my tears as I mouthed:
“You know I love you so.”
Above: Yellow, Coldplay
The night began as is went on, with a brimming set-list of 24 songs. From fan-favorites such as Viva la Vida, Paradise, and Fix You, to those as obscure as Don’t Panic; a song that appeared on both Parachutes and Coldplay’s debut E.P, The Blue Room. There was an excellent, partial cover of Don’t Look Back in Anger “for Manchester”, one that we obligingly belted out as the stars settled above us. Chris even improvised a song in honour of Dublin, as a wheelchair-bound fan, Rob, was crowd surfed to join him on stage. Though I’ve made reference to the lighting rig several times throughout this post, I’ll never be able to do justice to the ethereal spectacle I witnessed, neither will my photographs, and nor will, I believe, anybody else’s.
Above, below: The spectacle
Coldplay are electric. Their sets merge upbeat anthems with lamenting, explosive ballads; they are icons of artistry and creativity, and a band that I feel are harshly branded as being “vanilla and boring”. I’ve taken a long time to come to terms with the fact that it’s acceptable to love them and their brand of music artistry. I’m unimaginably glad that I made the decision, utterly last-minute, to see them live in Dublin.
And yes, I was in time for work on Sunday morning!