Coldplay performed an unplugged version of "A Message" and duet with Beyonce at the London studios of the Haiti telethon in Covent Garden last night. "A Message" heated up the emotions enough that Chris Martin doffed his hat by the end. Chris returned on piano to accompany Beyonce Knowles, singing "Halo." You can relive the performances via YouTube at the Coldplay forum now, and find new video download links over the next 24 hours at the Multimedia forum here (please note that audio links are not permitted, they are available via iTunes only.)
There were some 50 people in the room - producers, directors, camera operators, lighting techs, publicists, makeup artists, recording engineers, mysterious men in headsets; but you could hear a pin drop. That's not hyperbole, either. Seconds before Beyonce's; and Chris Martin were set to record their version of Beyonce's "Halo," for Friday night's Hope for Haiti Now telethon, and as tension filled the room and the floor producer counted down from 10, someone actually dropped a pin, and it hit the floor with a clatter...
Everyone stopped and looked around for the offending party. They had watched the duo run through the song in rehearsals, had seen Martin bend down close to the piano keys, like a kid in a recital, terrified of screwing up.
To his credit, Martin tried to diffuse the situation, looking up from his piano, joking he was about to have “a Christian Bale moment.” The room laughed nervously, then stiffened again. The floor producer started her countdown once more, Martin looked up at Beyoncé, nodded and asked her, simply, sweetly: “Are you ready?”
Then Martin began playing, his fingers pulling quiet, controlled notes out of the keys. Beyoncé closed her eyes tightly, started singing nearly as quietly as Martin played. Then, over the course of the next three minutes, she let her voice get progressively bigger, until it filled the room — not just with tone, but with real emotion, pain, sorrow and grief. She added “Haiti” to the song’s chorus, bent deep to bring the notes out and, at the end, put her arm on Martin’s shoulder — not just for solidarity, but for support. People in the room — hardened professionals, TV vets, journalists — wept. They cried genuine tears for the people of Haiti. So did Beyoncé. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment — a reminder to everyone in the room of why they chose to do this and of the real power of music, played simply, sung emotionally.
The thing was, there were plenty of moments like that Friday, as some of the biggest stars in the world converged on London’s Hospital Club to show their support to the victims of last week’s Haitian earthquake, to lend a hand to the recovery process and to urge the world to do the same.
There was Jay-Z, Rihanna, Bono and The Edge, backed by Jay’s band, aided by a full gospel choir, about to perform “Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)” — the song they had recorded in different studios around the globe — together for the first time, with the whole world watching. As Jay spat lines about the sky falling and the earth quaking, you could see the genuine pain in his eyes. When he added the traditional Haitian greeting of “sak pasé” (literally “what’s up”) to the hook, you could tell he didn’t do it to be clever. It was because, as Rihanna would later tell MTV News, he knew people there and had friends who lost loved ones in the wreckage. And as Bono and Rihanna traded verses, there was a tremble in their throats. It wasn’t because of nerves, either.
You could see the heartbreak in Robert Pattinson’s eyes as he read the story of a Haitian girl stuck beneath the rubble for days, and as he spoke, the room got densely quiet. And Coldplay, playing with a pair of acoustics and a winsome violinist, brought real heart and soul to their song “A Message.” When Martin sang, “My song is love,” you believed him.
It was a real once-in-a-lifetime night. And, really, you’d expect nothing less — especially when the stakes are this high, the tragedy this immense, the emotions so powerful. Hopefully you were moved. And hopefully, you helped.