On Tuesday morning, I woke up with a slightly sore throat. It’s February in England, and I’d slept with my heating on. Obviously I’d dried out the air a bit too much. Nothing a cup of tea wouldn’t fix. But by the time lunchbreak rolled around, I was unable to speak or swallow, and I panicked. No, not because I may have to call in sick to work, or because I was at all upset at the thought of a day or two in bed - but because tomorrow was the NME Awards. I’d bought a ticket as soon as Coldplay had announced they were performing and nothing - not hell nor high water nor ill health - would keep me from Chris Martin.
And so - heavily dosed up on four different medications but still attempting the leather-jacket-edgy-cool look - I headed to Brixton O2 Academy for the second time within four days. I was, however, starving and in need of the loo, the solution to both of which I located in a Costa down the road from the station, and so by the time I reached the Academy, I was stuffing a chicken sandwich down my throat whilst attempting to retain aforementioned leather-jacket-edgy-cool look. Add the influence of the bucketing rain and it’s quite clear that I failed miserably.
After 40 minutes in the rain - by which time at least I’d ascertained that my jacket was waterproof - we were led inside, and shepherded upstairs, only to be told that pit standing ticket holders were to wait around to be collected by a stewart. That’s it. No other info. And so we waited. And waited. And waited. 47 minutes later, we were given wristbands, and escorted down the stairs, into the venue proper, and down to a very small spot in front of the gents’ loo. A very small spot which had no view at all of the performance side of the stage. Hmm. I had paid 40 to see my favourite band, not to stare at the presenter’s shoes for 2 and a half hours. At this point, many irate thoughts crossed my mind: NME Awards, more like the ‘Where The Hell Are We?’ Awards. Pit Standing tickets, more like ‘WTF Am I Going?’ tickets. If there had been wifi, I’d have rage-Tweeted until I’;d gotten both a refund and a private audience with Chris Martin. Upon another confused audience member asking where the ‘pit’ was, the stewart replied “this is it” and walked away. Spotting another pit on the opposite side of the room - right in front of the stage set up - I hightailed it across the venue, hoping for a better spot.
As I hurried through the crowd, I almost literally ran slap-bang into a figure sporting an impressive beard. I grinned and said “Hi!” rather enthusiastically, before continuing on my way, not stopping for a second to ask myself why I had just greeted Michael Eavis - founder of Glastonbury Festival - as though he were an old friend. I had other things on my mind. Luckily, I managed to find the real pit standing area and made it to the front easily. Now, there’s a reason I say ‘front’ rather than ‘barrier’. There was no barrier. Nope, the only thing separating me from Chris Martin would be my own self-control.
Cue dimming of the lights and the ceremony officially starting. I glanced behind me, hoping to perhaps spot some minor music celebs, but my heart nearly stopped at the sight of a very familiar face: none other than Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs. I am not at all ashamed to say that I spent the majority of the first performance - Foals - watching Ricky and attempting to make eye contact. Which I did not manage.
After performances by Foals (has Yannis always been that short?), The Maccabees (wonder if Ricky is enjoying this, I wonder if I can take a photo without him noticing), Rat Boy (is that Jay from The Inbetweeners?) and Bring Me The Horizon (who I have lost all my respect for after they trashed Coldplay’s table during said performance) and artists such as Wolf Alice and Charlie XCX collecting major awards, it was time for the Godlike Genius Award, presented by none other than - na na na, na na na na na, na na na… - Kylie Minogue.
Lo and behold, out walk Coldplay from the audience. I’m shocked, having assumed they had been backstage the entire time. Not having been able to see the back rows of tables from my spot, I’d missed that fact that Chris and co had been in the audience the whole time. In the speech, Chris’s self-deprecation is always close to the surface. “We started getting nominated for things like Worst Band, Worst Album…” But he offered a sincere thank you to everyone who listens to and supports the band, and a heartfelt thanks to NME for the Godlike Genius Award. All too soon the four members trouped across the stage to where their instruments awaited. I wasn’t mentally prepared. Somehow I survived through Viva La Vida - with drummer Will Champion inches from me, beating one of his massive drums. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that I was living through this. Next up was Charlie Brown, and our Xylo Bands lit up the room, as even the bands left their seats and clustered forward to watch the Geniuses perform. Clocks was up next, but the sound quality left something to be desired, with Chris’s vocals being drowned out in places. Well, either that or he forgot some of his own lyrics, which is also possible.
“I think the show’s finished, but we’ll keep playing… you don’t have to stay, but you can if you want!” Chris went on to quip about how the Super Bowl had just been a warm up show for the NME Awards. “Let’s do Yellow…” and the stage lit up in yellow and I was transported back to my first Coldplay show in Johannesburg back in 2011. There, I’d had to plead with a security guard to pick up one piece of confetti and hand it to me after the show - this time, I could have taken a bath in the amount of the stuff that fell on me. ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’ came with the beautiful multi-colours of this Coldplay era, and I was finally able to replace some of the photographs I lost in the Great iPhone Fail of 2016 (details of which I won’t go into, let’s just say… church, Hackney, album launch show…). I knew ‘Fix You’ had to feature, and as soon as the first notes began I knew it was the end. Is there a more emotional song in the world? Perhaps only ‘A Dustland Fairytale’.
I was left more excited than ever for the full tour in June - this and the Hackney show have been just enough to whet my appetite very nicely. And although I would have loved to have stayed and tried to meet the band afterwards, it was cold, it was rainy, and I know when not to push the limits of my own health. But what a night it had been.
Not to mention Yoko Ono’s presence; or the way I screamed when a clip from The Killers’ ‘Shot At The Night’ played when they were nominated for Best International Band; or the Bowie Tribute, or Taylor Swift’s video acceptance speech; or the new friend I made in the front row (our selfies were the best). It was truly an honour to have been able to attend an event like the NME Awards. It was something I had only ever dreamed of doing, and now something I hope to do again next year.
The first time I saw Coldplay, in 2011, I was so disheartened by the mean, offhand comments thrown around by people around me when I mentioned my excitement. “Worst band ever”, “How can you go see them?”, “So uncool.” And this time was no different - “Oh, are they still going?” was the most popular remark today. But I’m no longer in the pursuit of coolness or acceptance. I’m no longer going to apologise for or try to justify my music taste. I’m not going to play down my excitement for a show, or how much of an impact a band has made on my life, just so I can fit in with the cool crowd. It’s no one’s business but my own.
Photos on my Instagram.
Photos on my Instagram.