On Friday the 7th of October, I found myself sitting through a lecture that I could barely endure. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I hate university, it's simply that as soon as said lecture was over, I was off to the airport to board a flight to Johannesburg to see Coldplay. Now, I have been an obsessive Coldplay fan for about four years, and I'd been counting down the days to the concert ever since I'd gotten tickets, almost six months ago. Needless to say, I was rather excited.
Lauren and I leave for the airport at around 10.30am, our flight is only at 2pm, but we have about a 90 minute drive ahead of us, and I am, of course, completely para-para-paranoid about missing out flight. We get to the airport at 12pm, and after face-planting into some food at the nearest restaurant, we make out way to the departures lounge, where I sit bouncing up and down for about an hour, and squealing "Chris" at frequent intervals, which quite possibly makes me sound like a mental patient.
I am an impatient person by nature, and there is just so much waiting involved in this day! We board our flight, wait to take off, wait to arrive in Johannesburg, wait around the airport for assorted members of my family to join us, wait for the rental car, and finally wait until my mother figures out how to get to where we're sleeping, in Bryanston. All the way, I am sure that if I blink, I will open my eyes in a reality where I am back home, working on academics, and not seeing Coldplay in less than 24 hours. This is about the time when I stop blinking...
Eventually, Saturday morning dawns. I've been awake since about 5.30am, but only rise at 7am. I am trying to conserve energy. We head off to the shops to cram some Joburg shopping into our very short weekend, and then make our way to Gold Reef City, where we board the first park 'n' ride bus to FNB Stadium. My excitement has surpassed expression, so I am very cool, calm, and collected. After a short walk, we arrive at the golden circle queue, which already consists of about 50 or 60 people, but considering the fact that 62 000 tickets were sold, we are in the first 0.001% of people.
We sit down and prepare for a long afternoon, as it is now about 1.20pm, and gates are set to open at 5pm. I also manage to buy a Coldplay t-shirt, as there are vendors walking around selling them, as well as having merchandise stands. Thus, queues are avoided. The fact that I am really going to see Coldplay becomes more and more real with every passing second. Around 3pm, we move forwards, and around 4pm, the security start handing out armbands. The golden circle armbands are bright pink, winning. Just before 5pm, a security man with a megaphone announces that they are about to open the gates, but that we are not to pass through the next checkpoint, the turnstiles that control entrance to the actual stadium. This is when the first disaster begins: it seems that the turnstiles had not been locked, and thus an appreciable number of people manage to slip into the stadium before security can stop them. But security is on top of things, and those who had entered prematurely are escorted back to the queue.
My nerves are shot by now, I've been wanting barrier at the concert for six months, and will be positively heartbroken if I don't get it. Eventually, the turnstiles open, we make our way through and... encounter disaster number two: the lack of signposts. We do a run around the entire stadium, unable to find the entrance to golden circle, before a kind security guard points us in the correct direction, by which time the barrier has started to fill up. Anyway, we do manage to find a barrier slot near the end of the ramp which projects from the main stage. It's fine, Chris and company will still walk right past our faces when they head to the end of the ramp to perform.
The stadium itself is absolutely spectacular, and the sight of 62 000 people beginning to filter in is nothing short of epic. Now the waiting begins again. It's about 5.30pm, and the opening act, SA's own Parlotones are scheduled to start at 7.45pm. I sit down on a very hard piece of metal attached to the barrier, but it's not very comfortable, and soon I stand up again. My legs and back are already sore from all the standing, and the brilliant sunshine has left me at least a few shades darker, but that's the last thing on my mind.
Finally, the lights dim, the announcer introduces The Parlotones, and South Africa's biggest rock band burst onto the stage with "We Call This Dancing". I'm a huge fan of these guys, and have seen them live several times before, thus I know the words to almost every one of the ten songs which they perform. The Parlotones are brilliant live, but someone in the audience takes up a chant of "We want Coldplay! We want Coldplay!", and I'm very disappointed, no one is asking them to like the music, but at least have a little respect for the artists.
And now we wait again. Luckily, we didn't have long to go. The road crew made some adjustments, and after about half an hour, the lights went down again, and we began to hear music from the stage. Then there were brightly coloured lights visible, and we watched Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion and Chris Martin arrive on stage. I attempt to video the beginning, but I'm shaking so much that my camera won't stay still, so I give up and just decide to scream, jump up and down and go crazy. The opening sound is 'Hurts Like Heaven', and before we know it, there are fireworks exploding from the top of the stadium, giving the term "explosive opener" a whole new meaning. Chris's vocals are perfect, and even though this is a new song, the crowd goes wild for it. Coldplay then launch straight into 'Yellow', during which the light the stage up with yellow lights. Once again, we go crazy.
As if I wasn't on enough of a high, the opening bars of 'In My Place' are practically enough to send me over the edge. This is when Chris walks down the ramp, about 2 meters from me, and sings on the end of the platform, joined by Jonny. This is also around the time when dozens of beach balls miraculously make their way into the audience, we hit them and watch them fly over our heads, in wonder. Oh. My. Word. Three songs in, and my mind has already been blown. Lauren and I exchange a glance that clearly says "is this real?" is it really possible that this band and this concert is so perfect in every single way?
Just when I think it can't get any better, Chris sits down at the brightly-coloured piano, and I hear the opening bars of 'The Scientist'. I was expecting this one during the encore, so it takes me completely by surprise. I manage not to cry or faint, only because I'm on such an adrenaline high. This song is utter perfection. The audience sings along in perfect unison, and Chris seems delighted. "You all sound beautiful", he says, "let's do it one more time then... nobody said it was easy...". "no one every said it would be so hard....". I cannot imagine what it must feel like to hear 62 000 people sing a song that you wrote. I was one of those 62 000, and was completely moved. It was extremely beautiful to watch.
The amazing songs just kept on coming, 'Lost!', 'Shiver', 'Violet Hill' (cue scream of note, and four minutes of jumping), a handful of new songs such as 'Major Minus' and 'Charlie Brown', and one of my favourite new songs, 'Paradise'. Chris tells us that after seeing how lovely and sunny South Africa is, Will had suggested that they film a video here, and thus they'd set off into the desert to start filming the video for 'Paradise'. "And we wondered", says Chris, "if you wanted to be in the last minute of our new video? Unless you don't want to, of course, then just hide your face." He also says that they'll be parading around in ridiculous outfits, however he neglected to mention just how ridiculous said outfits were. If I was expecting flowing robes adorned with 'MX' and bright colours, I was wrong. Chris and the boys left the stage for a split second and returned wearing huge elephant heads. Yes, as in large furry elephant heads. Because that is completely normal. "When you're not as good-looking as Beyonce, you have to do what you can for videos", says Chris. His self-depreciation breaks my heart a bit, doesn't he know how amazing he is? Between giggles, I managed to get a photo of this oddity, and sing along to, in my humble opinion, one of Coldplay's best lyrics: "so lying underneath those stormy skies, she said 'oh, I know the sun must set to rise', this could be para-para-paradise". Wow. Again, wow.
The acoustic version of 'The Hardest Part' was beautiful, Chris was just meters away from us, seated at another piano, and then he was joined by Jonny, Will and Guy for 'Til Kingdom Come', which was breathtaking. Clearly not wanting to quieten things down too much, they then ran back to the main stage and launched into 'Politik', which sounded absolutely amazing live. Beyond amazing.
Next up was 'Viva La Vida', which threw the crowd into an absolute frenzy. The viva chant was sung by the entire audience, before, during, and after the band sang the song. Mind-blowing. A few more songs and then the band left the stage, thanking us for being there, and promising to see us again soon. Wait, what? Where was 'Fix You' and that Amy Winehouse tribute I'd heard so much about? But I'm no novice when it comes to concerts, and didn't move from my spot, instead joining int he rest of the crowd, as we took up the Viva chant once again.
The intro of 'Clocks' got the crowd going once again. I started jumping and squealing again. 'Clocks', like all of Coldplay's songs is 100 times better live, and I was blown away! After this came a short version of Amy's 'Rehab', which fed directly into 'Fix You', which was also sung by 62 000 voices. Amazing. Have I said that before? I'll say it again: Amazing. The final song was 'Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall', which ended the night on a hugely high note. The band took a bow, and left the stage for the last time.
The concert may have ended before 11pm, but for the 62 000 fans, the show lives on. The Viva chant continued all the way down the road, onto the park 'n' ride bus, in my sleep, and in the airport. I had never been to a concert like that in my entire life, it was perfect in every way. Setlist, vocals and instruments, audience interaction, the video shoot, the fireworks, the effects on the big screens, the lights, the confetti, the huge balloons that came down during 'Lost!', all combined to produce an absolutely fantastic show that I will never in my life forget. I cannot describe how amazing Coldplay are live, and how energetic the performance was. To anyone who believes Coldplay to be a calm band, or thinks of their music as depressing, think again! Chris, Jonny, Will and Guy are true showmen, they are on stage because they love it, and they are brilliant at what they do. I am not exaggerating when I say that this may have been the best concert that this country has ever seen.
I have to say well done to organisers Big Concerts, personally I had no real troubles before, during, or after the show, and traffic was barely a problem when leaving. To Coldplay, I say thank you for an unforgetable experience, and please do visit us again soon, South Africa loves you. A lot.