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I'm Going Back to the Start

An Ode to Coldplay by Lauren Noble

As one of the first blogposts I wrote for 'Idiosyncrasies and Other Tendencies' it was the piece that made me feel like writing was more than just my passion, it was my calling. I've had this same realization often between then and now so perhaps it's time to act on that rather than keep everything on the back-burner?" ~ Lauren Noble, 2018

Having typed the opening sentences to this blogpost at least thirteen times and subsequently finding that the backspace and delete keys are being used more frequently than the actual letters on my keyboard, I think it is safe to say that the difficulty in finding words to describe my first concert experience is somewhat pronounced. Nevertheless, if any group deserve a fourteenth attempt at a blogpost, it would most certainly be the humble foursome that call themselves Coldplay.

As the opening chords to The Scientist play through my pathetic laptop speakers, I am reminded of how much I have relied on Coldplay’s melodies and lyrics to get me through those “two-in-the-morning” moments. You must know the ones I mean – having left your very important assignment to that last possible moment, causing you to spend the better part of the night and most of the wee hours hammering away at the keyboard and hoping like hell that the stuff you’re typing actually makes sense to humans. I had many of those throughout my years at varsity and, even more recently, in preparation for the final exams for my teacher’s certificate (this being the irksome cause for my blogging hiatus and not because I had been Swallowed in the Sea). I have always admired Coldplay’s attention to detail, their indefinite lyrics, their acute awareness of the ebb and flow which should exist within a song, allowing their audience to join them in getting Lost! along the way, and the fact that they take their craft very seriously. And it is for this reason, above wanting to share my experience with anyone and everyone who cares to read my ramblings, that I dedicate this blogpost to the four men whose performance at Soccer City blew my expectations right out of Soweto!

Having cooked up an elaborate plan to surprise my Coldplay-crazy boyfriend with two Golden Circle tickets to the concert, I rushed over to Computicket on the 12th of May 2011 only to be told that they had sold out. That was two hours after bookings officially opened. Two hours! Really?! Clutching those General Admission tickets as if they were my own children, a five month wait until the big day was punctuated by a few heart-stopping episodes due to what I like to believe are my more quirky habits. I would frequently rush through to my bedroom, filled with an unparalleled sense of panic, throw the contents of my wardrobe onto my unmade bed and await my very own sigh of relief that meant the tips of my fingers had brushed against that Computicket envelope. We were going. The tickets were not a figment of my imagination.

Accompanied by our trusty Joburg tour guide (known to some as “Ze German”), we set about making arrangements to get to and from Soccer City without our own set of wheels. This resulted in an R80 ticket for each of us to hop onboard the MetroRail, South Africa’s very “individual” transportation system from Johannesburg Central to Nasrec Station in Soweto. My very first and extremely bumpy train ride; my first time in Soweto, a place that I had read about in anti-apartheid plays and novels since I was 15; my first time catching a glimpse of Soccer City on the horizon and finally appreciating its distinctive beauty… this Coldplay concert was turning out to be quite an experience – and we hadn’t even set foot in the stadium yet!

Soccer City, Soweto and a crowd of apparently ravenous fans. Lyrics courtesy Lost!

Walking towards the giant calabash that is Soccer City was a moment of deep nostalgia… This was the very place that, just over a year ago, locals and foreigners alike stood together and embraced the beginning of the World Cup on South African soil. And now, here I was, moments away from seeing that our work towards creating a true depiction of our home country had not gone to waste. With so few international acts ever deeming this seemingly unchartered part of the world as worthy of their presence, it was a breath of fresh air to hear that, sixteen months after the close of the World Cup, Chris Martin and the boys had decided that we were fans worth performing for.

ust one example of how breathtaking the atmosphere was. Lyrics courtesy Fix You.

As the lights dimmed on the 65,000 strong crowd, the excitement in the air became instantly palpable. The Parlotones took to the stage and I was most surprised to find that I knew most of the words to their songs, having never really been swept up in the tidal wave of groupie-love that accompanies a few successes on the South African airwaves. Nevertheless, the Parlotones deserve respect for this very reason and because they somehow managed to maintain the atmosphere of anticipation by finding a way to entertain the 65 000 fans who were all but ravenous for the musical stylings of Coldplay – that was no mean feat, I tell you! A technical set-up which seemed to last eons rather than a mere half an hour was finally completed, and a Shiver of excitement shot through the crowd like a bolt of lightning. Coldplay had taken their place onstage.

From the most remarkable use of lighting which coursed through the colours of the rainbow and then somehow found a way into your soul, to a hundred multicoloured beachballs being released from the heavens into the crowd… From Chris Martin’s playful nature shining through in his witty exchange with the crowd, to introducing us to Coldplay’s “very handsome bass guitarist, Guy” who gave a coy smile that made all the ladies go weak in the knees… From listening to my ecstatic boyfriend sing every single word to every single song in my ear, to joining in with 64,999 other people as we belted out crowd favourites such as Viva La Vida, Yellow and Politik...

"This, ladies, is our very handsome bass guitarist, Guy!" Lyrics: The Scientist.

From the most beautifully crafted live feed to a series of screens behind and on either side of the band, to seeing Ze German on the big screen right behind Chris Martin as he crooned upon the edge of the ramp which jutted right out into the audience… From the absolute humility that radiated from the stage and spoke volumes about how true artists are able to share their passion for their craft without falling back on an overly-inflated ego, to the fact that Chris Martin sounded even better in person than he does in the studio… From the most jaw-dropping and unexpected pyrotechnics after Fix You, to fluffy elephant heads making an appearance for long enough to make the crowd want one of their own… From the utter dedication from all the Coldplay boys throughout the concert and even an oxygen break needed due to the difference in altitude without even considering compromising the performance, to the gratefulness I feel when I acknowledge that I will be able to tell my children that I am even the merest of mere dots in the Paradise music video…

Our Life in Technicolour, that's for sure! Lyrics courtesy Paradise.

Coldplay did something that night that I have been told successful performers must do since my first year at varsity – they left everything that they could possibly afford to leave on the Soccer City stage, and then some! And if it were even at all possible, they topped that awe-inspiring performance to acknowledge their entire South African journey in their latest music video. It is on OUR roads that Chris is unicycling, it is with OUR currency that he pays the shopkeeper; it is OUR sunset that elevates their depiction of utopia; it is in OUR grasslands that an adorably fake elephant band are reunited; and it is OUR concert experience that is being shown to Coldplay fans all over the world.

This was an experience I will never, ever forget. An experience that is revisited every time I listen to Coldplay in my car, or even through my pathetic laptop speakers. I thank them for considering South Africa as a place of worth, and for showcasing their adventure in our humble country to the world. I thank them for giving their utmost in easily the most breathtaking performance that set the bar for all others. I thank them for continuing to inspire me with their melodies and lyrics, even at two-in-the-morning. But, most of all, I thank them for reminding me always to ask of myself:

“am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?”

© Lauren Noble for Collab Company via 'Idiosyncrasies and Other Tendencies' | 2011


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