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Despite blowing my new year's resolution almost immediately, I'm still looking for ways to avoid giving hotels all my money this year. To this end, I visit reception in Melbourne and lie through my teeth. "Hello, I'm a recovering alcoholic and I'd like my mini-bar emptying please - all of it". Then it's off to 7-11 to stock up on all the goodies they'd sting me a fortune for in moments of weakness. (If Jonny Christ is reading this, please rest assured that the Archbishop would not behave in such a way in NYC - oh no siree....)
With my precious pennies saved, I head out later to a lounge bar in town for CM's birthday. I bail after a few drinks, but it's enough to give me a drunken grin and a slight stagger when I wander back through reception. Busted...
There are many luxurious things about the way we live when touring. Nice flights, wonderful hotels and good food are all great perks. Given the recent time-zone pinball that we've been playing though, the greatest luxury of all is the simplest - time. The schedule on this tour leg is utterly wonderful. Every city has two, three or even four shows. Travel days are followed by complete days off. It's got recovery written all over it. Add to the mix some glorious sunshine and this truly is a payoff.
The first day in Brisbane is marked with a soundcheck party. It's all the usual stuff, but notable for a request for Swallowed In The Sea from the assembled competition winners. I've not heard that one since the X&Y tour and it's good to see it getting an outing. Maybe we'll see a few more forgotten tracks coming back over the year. It's a long, long tour this one, so a setlist shake-up is pretty much inevitable.
Eric, our head of merchandise is getting some new things together too. Being as the puppets are travelling with us, he's trying to get some shots of them and has asked me to give him a hand. The "out and about" shots of the puppets are all the work of Dan P, the band's personal trainer, so we have him drop them into us in Melbourne and get cracking.
As with most creative endeavours, it becomes a good deal more involved than first anticipated. Dave Fav, the band's lighting crew chief lends us a couple of lamps which we stand on cardboard boxes. We're then into the business of trying to make the puppets stand up. We employ fishing line, initially around the necks and then through the jackets. Still, the band's mini-mes are refusing to stand up straight. "RF Stef", who looks after a mountain of radio gear used in the show comes up with the idea of sticking the radio antenna from a walkie talkie up a trouser leg. It's silly enough to try and it works a treat. I find myself continually apologising to the puppets for the discomfort, but they behave themselves well and shortly before showtime, we're done.
The next day sees Chris bring in a new song he's been working on with Rik at the Bakery. We're fiddling with sounds and doing some programming ready for the whole band to have a crack at it. Then he flies up the steps to the tiny C-stage at the back of the arena. Keyboard tech Neill Lambert has come up with a wonderfully bonkers invention to replace the Casio keyboard they were using for I'm A Believer. At the top of the steps are two ladies in security jackets. I'm pretty sure that one of them recognises Chris, but the other asks if we're in the band or "just technicians". Chris quickly jumps in and explains that we're just the roadies. The job's ok, he says, but the band are arseholes. Hoppy and I agree before pondering, "Well actually, it's just the singer....." I wonder if they were still working up there a few hours later when the fellas ran up and sang to the screaming arena from close-up?
Right, normally I'd have peppered a bunch of photos in amongst all this. They've just called our flight for boarding though, so I'd better finish my cuppa and get going. Promise I'll send you some nice stuff from Brisbane.
Oh - this just in... Chris has pulled his iPod earbuds out next to me and asked me to tell you all that the Bat For Lashes album is incredible. Go check it out...!