Inside Coldplay Underplays On Big Apple Small Stages
Theo Wargo / Getty Images / SiriusXM – Live At The Apollo
Coldplay’s Chris Martin performs at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, a drastically smaller room than the stadiums the band typically frequents.
In the hours before Coldplay took the stage at Manhattan’s 500-capacity City Winery on Sept. 20, Michael Dorf was getting mildly concerned.
Like many, the City Winery founder and CEO is familiar with Chris Martin’s ebullient public persona, which was at odds with the reserved musician he found milling around backstage at the club after Coldplay performed its soundcheck.
“I hope he’s feeling good,” Dorf remembers thinking. “He was just so docile and calm and quiet and almost lethargic. And then boom! He gets on stage and it’s the most energetic thing. It’s an athletic experience that he warms up for the way a world-class athlete would.”
Coldplay might’ve just announced another ambitious, multi-continent stadium tour, but between the City Winery gig and a Sept. 23 show at Harlem’s 1,500-capacity Apollo Theater, it proved it can still command small spaces.
“The true beauty of the evening was witnessing this incredible band play such an intimate space,” says Apollo Theater executive producer Kamilah Forbes of the “really magical” concert, which was broadcast on SiriusXM.
“It wasn’t their full stadium show, but they brought a lot of bells and whistles that worked perfectly in our space,” she says, pointing to projection mapping the walls and the band’s signature LED bracelets.
At City Winery, Dorf says, the band’s team hung a backdrop and “mounted the full-spectrum arena projection system so that they could have the full show.”
Coldplay could’ve delivered pedestrian performances and most fans still would’ve left happy, with bragging rights that they saw one of the biggest touring acts in the world in close quarters – but that’s not how the band operates.
“It was recorded for radio and it was a fan-only kind of thing,” Dorf says of the City Winery gig, which was presented in conjunction with Audacy. “He didn’t have to give it 110% – and he gave it 115%.”
At the Apollo, Martin paid homage to the venue by dedicating the Coldplay classic “Viva La Vida” to James Brown and inserting a portion of Mr. Dynamite’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” into the song’s bridge, and he later worked a snippet of Ginuwine’s “Pony” into the end of “Paradise.”
“To see such an over-the-top amount of energy come off the stage into that same small room, it’s absolutely unique,” Dorf says. “It’s like being at a tiny municipal airport that only serves propeller planes, and then to have a 747 take off – and being right next to the 747.”