By Adam Kaye
Coldplay :: 12.09.05 :: Austin City Limits :: Austin, TX
Last Friday night's Austin City Limits taping with Coldplay was unprecedented in many respects. According to the producers of the show, the demand for tickets was higher than ever before. For the first time ever, the performance was simulcast in an adjacent auditorium on the University of Texas's campus for around 700 more people than they were able to fit in the studio, and within the studio, all of the chairs were removed to accommodate as many attendees as possible. The turn-around time for the production was also greatly reduced from the normal production schedule, with only eight days between the episode's taping and its airing. It was also the last taping of the season, so it served as both a holiday party and a going-away party for the crew's stage manager, who was retiring after 30 years.
Coldplay :: 12.09 :: ACL by Scott Newton
From the moment you received your tickets and began walking toward the end of the line for admission, it was obvious that this was a special occasion. In a town known for blue jeans and worn-out sandals, it was as if everybody had dug deep into his or her closet for their "New York outfit." Those already in line scrutinized every newcomer, asking themselves "Who is this guy?," which was a little intimidating until you found the end of the line and started doing the same thing yourself.
Chris Martin commented early in the set that "This feels kind of like the school play," referring to the size of the studio and to the informality of the proceedings. Austin's reigning Homecoming King and Queen, Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow, lit up the room with their entrance, and according to reports, Austin's mayor was in attendance as well. Gwyneth didn't appear to be in town, or I suspect Chris would have been clean-shaven.
Chris Martin of Coldplay
12.09 :: ACL
Anybody who has attended the taping of a television show before knows it's quite different from a normal concert. The primary objective is to produce the best possible episode, and this fact led to a little apprehension at the start of the performance. After a lukewarm reception to the first song, Martin playfully suggested, "I know it's TV, but you don't have to be nervous." It seemed he was trying to convince himself just as much as the audience.
In case anybody was worried they weren't going to hear all their favorites, that concern was quickly put to rest when Martin introduced the second song of the night, "Yellow." Everybody sang along and thought about how lucky (or influential) they were to be in attendance. During "Speed of Sound," Martin worked the cameras in a manner that made it obvious he had done so before. His Bono-like movements seemed a little funny in person but are sure to look nice and polished on the finished product.
Coldplay is Chris Martin's band the way that Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is Jim Carrey's movie. Nothing happens without his influence, and he's so charismatic you can't help but want to watch him. When he's on the piano, the song revolves around the piano, and when he's front-and-center on the microphone, the words are the most important element. Martin's lead guitarist Jonny Buckland is extremely talented and demands attention when it's his turn to shine, and the rhythm section of Will Champion (drums) and Guy Berryman (bass) give the music that arena-filling sound for which the band is known.
Michael Stipe with Chris Martin
Practice Session at ACL by Cambria Harkey
Next, the band performed a couple songs from their latest album, X & Y. For the intimate acoustic numbers, the players gathered together in the center of the stage. The drummer played piano, and the bass player picked up the harp. After that, they played "Til Kingdom Come," a tune they wrote in honor of Johnny Cash, which transitioned nicely into Cash's "Ring of Fire." This classic drew the loudest ovation of the night from the crowd, which clapped loudly and perfectly in tune with the beat for the duration of the song. It occurred to me during this song that the reason they call Austin "The Live Music Capital of the World" is because of the music fans, and if you had seen this crowd clapping along, you would know exactly what I'm talking about.
It was apparent all night that this was a very special occasion for the band as well. At one point, Martin gushed that "We saw the Killers on ACL." He also drew the parallel between PBS's ACL and a number of similar programs on the UK's BBC. "We came up doing this sort of thing, and it's good to know it's going on in the U.S. as well."
From the start of the night, Martin was promising that if you weren't enjoying yourself yet, just trust him and stick around because, "We have a surprise for you." That surprise turned out to be Michael Stipe from R.E.M., with whom Martin recently collaborated in Atlanta. Stipe sang two songs with the band: Joseph Arthur's "In the Sun" and R.E.M.'s "Nightswimming," which Martin introduced as "the greatest song ever written." Martin played the beautiful piano part, and Stipe had to ask a fan for a little help with the lyrics.
Michael Stipe with Coldplay
12.09 :: ACL
Martin was bouncing around all night like a grade-schooler in need of his Ritalin, and during "In My Place" toward the end of the set, he spent a minute or so in the front row of the audience, watching his talented band carry the room. The set ended with "Clocks," which featured a raging, arena-rock style peak and a stop-on-a-dime finish. Had we been at Wembley Stadium, this would have been the perfect jumping-off point, but instead it served as something of an appetizer. "If you like this, you'll LOVE our concert."
The band performed for almost two hours, which will be cut down to an hour before it airs Saturday night. Check your local listings for the showtime in your area.
Setlist of ACL Episode:
Speed of Sound
'Til Kingdom Come
Ring of Fire
In the Sun *
In My Place
* with Michael Stipe
What you won't see:
- Martin's jazzy, solo, Harry Connick Jr.-like take on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," after the last encore.
- Several songs from X & Y, including "Swallowed in the Sea," "X and Y," "Talk," and "Square One."
- Michael Stipe's obvious displeasure with Martin's introduction to "In the Sun" and his insistence that they redo the song after he was unsatisfied with the first take.
- Martin walking out for the encore before remembering he wasn't supposed to speak before it, then turning and walking four steps from the front of the stage, and re-approaching his piano for the song.
- The crowd calling for louder lead vocals and Martin pretending he wasn't loving every minute of that.
- A very awkward finish to the last song and Martin's attempts to recover from it, which ultimately led to the pretty but not-to-be-included-on-the-show, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
- Martin's running conversation with a couple of 10 and 11 year-olds in the front of the crowd, including "This is a pretty cool place to be at 11. When I was your age, I was at Disneyland" and "Good luck with girls."
After the episode airs, viewers who log on to AustinCityLimits.com and identify the final song of Coldplay’s performance will have a chance to win backstage access to Coldplay’s spring U.S. tour and a trip to experience a taping of the Austin City Limits television program in 2006.
Coldplay highlights an incredible season for Austin City Limits, which features performances by Grammy winners, bands on the forefront of rock and music legends including Jack Johnson, Etta James, The Killers, Widespread Panic, John Prine, Gretchen Wilson, Ryan Adams, and Franz Ferdinand among others.
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