Chris Martin realizes Coldplay has some critics, but that's not stopping him from living la Vida, reports the Sun Sentinel.
Chris Martin was working out the knots. As his handlers hovered, the usually affable Coldplay singer stretched out on the carpet in a dim and airless room backstage at the Jimmy Kimmel show. It was hours before showtime and the singer's muscles were tight and his expression sour. Finally, he looked up with pleading eyes. "Can we escape? Let's go somewhere else. Maybe some place with trees? I have a car and a driver ..."
A few minutes later, the lanky Brit ducked through an alleyway behind the talk show's Hollywood Boulevard studios and climbed into an ebony SUV that whisked him and his visitor up the hill to Griffith Park. "This looks good," he said, tapping the window. "Yes, let's stop here." As soon as his sneakers hit the grass, the black-clad Martin was as perky as the Labrador that trotted past him on a path. Enough so that he started making confessions and jokes which, for him, are hard to separate.
"Like millions of people in the world, I can't listen to Coldplay," Martin said with a daft wink. "But my reason is professional. You see, I'm always thinking about the next thing. I'm also always looking for something that will inspire the next thing. Look, we're the one band we can't plagiarize. So really there's no point in me listening to it. If I think, 'Well, that's good,' then I'll want to use it, which won't work. And if I think, 'Hey that's terrible,' then I'll be depressed over breakfast. It's a classic lose-lose situation."
If you listen to Coldplay — and many people do, considering the 11.2 million albums they've sold in the United States alone — then you already know that Martin is an earnest voice in an ironic age. That has opened the band up to savage insults (Noel Gallagher once sneered that they were "four Didos with willies") but instead of retreating, Martin decided to join in the sport. No one gives Chris Martin more grief these days than Martin himself. He makes fun of his hair, clothes, diet and famous falsetto. He even mocks himself for thinking, deep-down, that he's cool for not being cool: "We've never been about being cool and we never will be. And I think in a way that's quite cool. But I can't think about it too much — because if you think about it then you automatically aren't cool. Wait, I've gone too far. I'm not cool. Again."
Coldplay has a new album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, which arrived with considerable heat. The lead single, Viva la Vida, hit No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 and, at iTunes, the pre-orders for the album were the largest in the history of the digital merchant. The band became famous for polished, piano-based songs of soaring pop exultation and rainy-day reflection, but with this new studio album, their fourth, they have made a bid at reinvention. The songs are still from the heart but maybe more from the gut.
No matter what, Coldplay, booked Sunday at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, won't be able to win over a certain constituency that, frankly, has detested them too much and for too long to start listening now. Jon Pareles of The New York Times once called them the "most insufferable band of the decade," which might say less about the band and more about how fashionable it has become to slag them. Martin said it's because he wears his heart on his sleeve when he sings. "If you allow yourself to be vulnerable in your music, people will feel it a lot more," Martin said. "But a lot more people will also hate it or mock it. It's almost like a deal with the devil, but I'm happy to take that deal. It doesn't feel right to me to sing about stuff I don't believe in."
In September 1996, a shy freshman named Jonny Buckland, fresh from a Welsh town called Mold, arrived with his acoustic guitar at University College London. His plan was to look at the stars (he was studying astronomy) but his life took a different path when, during orientation week, he met Martin, a gangly kid from leafy Devon, who coaxed him into a music partnership.
They would be joined by bassist Guy Berryman, a handsome Scot who came to the university to study engineering. He had heard Martin's amateur attempts at songwriting and, after a few rounds at a pub, lurched across the room and demanded membership in the band. Will Champion, an anthropology student who knew more about tribes than he did drums, was brought in to keep the beat. They called themselves Starfish, but the name didn't stick. They pinched a better one from Child's Reflections, Cold Play, a 1997 collection by American poet Philip Horky.
Their 2000 debut album, Parachutes, yielded the yearning, breakthrough hit Yellow and the 2002 follow-up, A Rush of Blood to the Head, came with a flurry of hit singles: In My Place, Clocks and The Scientist. That's when things got complicated. Relentless tour dates, the tug of their personal lives and the turbulence of success put Coldplay in a shaky place.
The members say they felt pressured by their label, EMI/Capitol Records, to create a followup with similar scope and sound. The album was delayed and EMI's stock dropped (literally) as a result, turning up the tension. The result was X&Y, a 2005 album that sold well but, in the band's view, lacked clarity.
To steady themselves, Martin said, Coldplay looked for a place to "make it homemade again." They found it in a blind alley in London.
"We found this little bakery, and we bought it and turned it into a, well, it's like a youth club," Martin said. "Do you read the Harry Potter books? It's a bit like that train stop they use, the platform 9 3/4, which you can't find unless you know where it is. If you drive by quickly, it doesn't look like anything is there. If you go in, it's like a little band heaven. Everything is hand-painted. There was a dartboard, but it's gone now. We banned some of the leisure activities. The last thing you need when you're trying to reinvent yourself is a pool table. Drummers tend to love pool more than they love drumming. It's a bigger stick."
The group also rang up Stella McCartney for some guidance in creating uniforms. Their vision was to create a look for themselves that was a mix of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and a rag-tag Salvation Army quintet. A Norwegian tailor made jackets and trousers, which they individualized with ribbons and piping.
"It's a little nerdy, but we turned into seamstresses for a few days," Martin said. "It's a nice feeling to wear clothes you really had a hand in. It's the closest we'll get to Roc-A-Wear, I think. It's not an original idea, but it's a good one. The Clash did it and Green Day did it. Adam Ant. Lots of people. It makes you feel more like a performer."
There's also a brother-in-arms message: "I think with each band there comes a point where they have to find a place to be together, otherwise they end up living in different countries and just meet on stage. When you get famous, there are two reactions to your other band mates. You either think, 'I could do this without you.' Or you think, 'I really couldn't do this without you.' You're luckier if you are in the second category. We've always been very grateful for each other."
Where: BankAtlantic Center, 2555 Panther Parkway, Sunrise
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $49.50-$97.50; Ticketmaster.com and 561-966-3309, 954-523-3309, 305-358-5885 or box office (954-835-8000)