Some 20 years ago, a rising indie rock band postponed a Lemon Tree gig to play a promotional slot at a US radio station Christmas party instead.
When they arrived for the rescheduled date at the Music Hall on April 23 2001, something had changed.
Coldplay had become big, very big – and were on their way to becoming massive.
And some of the people in the audience that night had a sense they were watching a band transitioning from playing concert halls to filling stadiums as global superstars.
“Because they had been upgraded from the Lemon Tree, there was a sense we were seeing a band that seemed like they were going on to big things,” said Carrie Innes, who was just 15 at the time, and is now living in Wellington in New Zealand.
“There was a strange atmosphere. There was almost like a tingle of anticipation.”
Also in the crowd was Mark Mitchell, who had bought tickets for the original Lemon Tree, just as Coldplay were breaking through with their Parachutes album. He said they were a popular band, but it wasn’t a big deal they were playing the Lemon Tree.
Almost like the new U2
“They were a known name but in the transfer between that and playing the Music Hall they had become almost like the new U2, rather than this is a new band with some decent songs,” said Mark, a life-long music fan who lives in Balmedie.
“But I doubt anyone there really expected them to go quite so far up the ladder so quickly after that.”
The original Lemon Tree gig had been due for December 15 in 2000, but the band pulled the plug the night before, due to “US promotional commitments”. Instead of the Granite City, they performed at the K-Roq radio Christmas party in Los Angeles.
But, true to their word, they returned to the bigger space of the Music Hall in April.
“To give Coldplay credit they said they would rearrange the gig, even though by the time it was rearranged they had obviously began to get quite big,” said Mark, a lead project manager with an oil firm.
“I think the Music Hall was a one-off for them and not part of a tour and by that time they were playing far bigger venues.”
Mark wanted to see Coldplay on the back of their Parachutes album, which saw them shift from indie rockers to household name, particularly thanks to the single, Yellow.
He remembers Coldplay as accomplished musicians.
He said the gig itself was subdued, given the mellow nature of the music, but still with a buzz.
“I think (that was) mostly from people who wouldn’t have been at the Lemon Tree for it. I know it’s a bit of a ‘I knew them before they were famous’ sort of thing, but I think the Lemon Tree folk would have been more of a muso crowd and by the time they were playing the Music Hall, it was ‘oh, this band are famous’.”
These days Mark doesn’t count himself as a Coldplay fan. “They got a bit too well known for me, a bit too trendy. I think they got carried away with themselves and a bit overblown.”
First proper band experience
Carrie, an administrator at Victoria University of Wellington, is still a fan though, and has a special place in her heart for the concert she went to with her mum, Fran.
“I was only 15 and that was my first proper band experience,” she said, adding her only previous gigs had been for “pop bands”, like All Saints and 911.
“Coldplay were really, really good. Until then I hadn’t realised that bands don’t sound the same as an album. Obviously the album has gone through all the polishing and production, so live it was more raw and I hadn’t realised that. They would end songs differently, maybe it’s a fade on the album, but live it just cuts dead. That took a while for me to get my head around that. With my pop bands that was all mimed – probably.”
Carrie admits her mum, who has since sadly passed away, was the bigger Coldplay fan, but she really liked the Parachutes album, too.
Selling out stadiums in seconds
“My poor brother had me and my mum playing the album every single day for about a year. My favourite track is Shiver.”
Carrie has seen Coldplay twice since, playing in Glasgow and Manchester as they became bigger and bigger to the point where they are selling out stadiums in seconds.
Today the band have sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the world’s best-selling music artists. They have racked up a slew of awards, including nine Brits, seven Grammys, seven MTV Video Music Awards, and eight MTV Europe Music
Their first three albums — Parachutes, A Rush of Blood to the Head, and X&Y are among the best-selling albums in UK chart history.
“So looking back its quite amazing l saw them at a time before they became what they are now,” said Carrie.
“They are completely different beasts and changed their sound quite a lot. Now they are lot more cultivated with managers and image people. But then they were fairly young, in their 20s, just regular guys. I’m sure they still are, but a lot different as they are multimillionaires.”
Hard to believe it was 20 years ago
Hayley Jaffrey was also in the Music Hall watching Coldplay on the cusp of world fame and finds it hard to believe it was 20 years ago.
“I have a little benchmark there. My son, Harris is 21 now and that was one of the first gigs we went to after he was born,” said the consultant data protection officer from Alford.
She was keen to see the band as she loved the album Parachutes.
“You have soundtracks to a certain part of your life and when it came out I thought it was beautiful and really liked it. When I was pregnant with Harris, a couple of albums were really important – Moby’s Play was another one I really liked. The first song Coldplay came out with, Shiver, was my favourite. And it’s now one of Harris’ favourite as well, which is quite cute.”
Hayley, who went to the gig with her husband Mike, said it was great concert, with a fantastic intimate atmosphere.
It enhanced the album experience
It was very rustic and I think they were green around the gills, as well. Chris Martin spoke quite a bit, but was really good and we really enjoyed it.
“They were really good live, acoustically, and the sound was really good in the Music Hall. Sometimes you go to a gig and think ‘well they’re a bit rubbish’ but it definitely wasn’t that. It enhanced the album experience,” she said.
Hayley said she didn’t notice at the time that Coldplay were on the very of going on to be the global phenomenon they became.
“But when you see them now doing huge big stadium gigs, you think: ‘I remember them looking like they had just come out of C&A’. They weren’t very trendy, they weren’t very styled, they didn’t really know their positions, they were still growing in their confidence. But you were there just for the quality of the music and that was the experience as opposed to the big celebrity and the large world domination bit.”