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“I don’t know if I can handle it getting much bigger than this,” recalled actor Simon Pegg of comments that his friend Chris Martin made to him after Coldplay’s first Shepherd’s Bush Empire show in 1999. Fast forward two decades and Pegg has now told that tale to an audience at the same venue. Only this time, Coldplay are stratospheric.
Any doubts that a young Martin had about dealing with the pressures of fronting a huge rock band seem long dislodged. The launch show for Coldplay’s new album Music of the Spheres proved that Martin can more than handle attention, thriving on an adoring crowd like an excitable puppy.
That energy barely waned as the band, completed by guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion, turbo-charged through their classics. Clocks, a searing piano pop number that befits an encore, was played early on as if to remind us that it was just one song raided from their vast arsenal of epics. Martin rocked his piano stool back and forth in a trance as muscular beats, bass and galactic rock riffs tumbled about him — still somehow managing to hug the spotlight that he was formerly afraid of.
Higher Power, the band’s buoyant ‘80s pop-inspired recent single, packed a bigger punch live than expected. But nothing was as unexpected as superstar Ed Sheeran appearing on stage. He joined the group for Fix You, Coldplay’s 2005 hit single, staying faithful to its stirring harmonies and helping to deliver one of the night’s most emotional moments.
The slinking grooves of Paradise and Adventure of a Lifetime alongside the gritty, glam rock strut of new song People of the Power allowed for even deeper escape into the music. However, just as fans were treated to a beautifully skeletal version of Coldplay’s 2000 breakthrough hit, Yellow, Martin deadpanned about playing “some actual really big hits”. Sheeran re-entered and, yes, massive hits were played (Shivers and Shape Of You). It was a bit of an unwelcome distraction from the main event.
Sadly, new album single Coloratura visibly turned fans off for Coldplay’s final bow. Not that it wasn’t a good performance, but it’s a musically dense, 10-minute space rock oddity that jarred with the night’s crowd-pleasers. Martin had warned facetiously that fans could leave before it started. Perhaps he’ll never quite move on from those early career doubts after all.