Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, The band played for two hours, racing through hits like Fix You and Yellow

  • Author, Mark Savage
  • Role, Music Correspondent

Is there such a thing as a band that’s too big for Glastonbury?

If so, Coldplay might be it.

People are climbing up scaffolding, security guards are standing on emergency vehicles, actual Tom Cruise is watching from a viewing platform, accompanied by Gillian Anderson and Simon Pegg.

Michael J Fox even joins them to play guitar on Fix You.

At other stages around Worthy Farm, A-list artists floundered, with some fields barely at one-third capacity.

Everyone, it seems, is straining for a glimpse of rock’s most generous-spirited band.

And Coldplay don’t disappoint.

Image source, Stephen Fildes / BBC

Image caption, Tom Cruise enjoyed the set from a viewing platform to the side of the stage

Like Dua Lipa on Friday night, they understand the brief: You can’t turn up to Glastonbury and play the same old festival set. It has to feel special.

They start with Yellow. Yes, Yellow. A song any other band would save for the encore.

And for the next hour, the hits don’t stop: Higher Power, Paradise, The Scientist, Hymn For The Weekend, Viva La Vida. The setlist is stacked.

But it’s more than that. Chris Martin makes it his mission to reach every member of the audience individually.

That’s why they give out the wristbands that turn the whole field into a giant LED screen. That’s why there are and confetti cannons every five minutes. That’s why so many of their songs have a bit that goes “woaaaaah” – even the most casual fan can sing along.

During The Scientist, Martin thanks the people who’ve waited by the front barriers all day.

“It’s amazing that none of you had to pee,” he laughs.

But he also thanks “everybody in the middle of the field” and the latecomers “at the back, five time zones away, in their wellington boots”.

“Thank you for all your flags and the singing and everything. This is our favourite thing to do on earth, so thank you for letting us do it.”

The production is such an assault on the senses – with all its lasers and giant balloons and confetti cannons – that experiencing it leaves you feeling slightly dizzy.

But it’s exactly that largesse that sets Coldplay apart.

Cynics might dismiss it as pandering to the lowest common denominator. I prefer to think of it as generosity. An act of community.

It also helps that they have an impenetrable arsenal of hits.

Clocks, with its swirling piano hook, is a strangely paranoid stadium anthem (“am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease”), while Sky Full Of Stars is a pure sugar-rush of pop perfection.

The urgent, propulsive Viva La Vida might tell the story of a deposed despot reminiscing about his glory days, but everyone knows it for the five note “oh-ah-woah-oh-oh” hook, that rings around the Pyramid Stage long after Coldplay have left.

Image caption, The set was an all-around assault on the senses

But perhaps the most intriguing section came towards the middle of the set, when Coldplay briefly indulged in some new material and deep cuts.

It featured the live debut of the song We Pray, featuring Nigerian star Burna Boy and British rapper Little Simz; and a vibrant rendition Arabesque, from 2019’s underappreciated Everyday Life album, which included a blistering saxophone solo from African icon Femi Kuti.

The latter, in particular, offered a glimpse of how Coldplay could operate outside the confines of stadium rock.

But before long, they were back in crowd-pleasing mode, racing through the dance anthems Something Just Like This and My Universe, a collaboration with K-pop supergroup BTS.

For the encore, they emerged on a B-stage, where Martin reminisced about their first ever visit to Glastonbury, 25 years ago this month.

They played the new band tent, they were late, and they were “just the worst” (his words, not mine).

To celebrate, they played Sparks, a rarely-heard acoustic ballad from their debut album, Parachutes.

Then, the best moment of the night.

Image caption, Coldplay are the only band to have headlined Glastonbury five times

Turning the cameras on the audience, Martin started improvising odes to individual fans.

Five handsome men in their tracksuits / They’ve made it to the front of the front section,” he sang to one group.

They didn’t come today / Dressed as Coldplay.

They came dressed as One Direction.

After a few more ditties, the cameras suddenly cut to Glastonbury co-founder Sir Michael Eavis, prompting a roar of approval from the audience.

Again, Martin began to sing.

Sir Michael we just want to thank you

“As humans go you’re the best of all sorts

“You’re a musical charmer

“You’re the world greatest farmer

“Whoever got knighted wearing shorts?”

Image caption, Sir Michael Eavis was seranaded from the stage

And just when it seemed like that would be the crowning glory, actor Michael J Fox appeared on screen.

The actor, who recently released a documentary about living with Parkinson’s, was in a wheelchair, but the audience went wild.

Martin explained that the star’s 1985 film Back To The Future had “inspired us to become a band”. And Fox joined him onstage to play Fix You on a peach guitar.

Every Glastonbury needs a defining moment – and this felt like the one for 2024.

This was Coldplay’s fifth time headlining Glastonbury, after previous stints at the top of the bill in 2002, 2005, 2011 and 2016.

Chris Martin previously told the BBC he was wary about returning to the festival after people complained about him making guests appearances during other people’s sets – including Stormzy and Kylie Minogue.

“I saw a tweet afterwards which said, ‘You can always rely on him to come on in a tracksuit and ruin everything’,” he recalled.

Tonight, that felt like distant history.

Tom Cruise’s one-word review? “Awesome.”

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, The Pyramid Stage was flooded with lasers, spotlights, fireworks and confetti


  • Forever Held
  • Yellow
  • Music Of The Spheres
  • Higher Power
  • Adventure Of A Lifetime
  • Paradise
  • The Scientist w/ Reverse
  • Clocks
  • Hymn For The Weekend
  • Charlie Brown
  • Viva La Vida
  • We Pray
  • That’s Alright
  • Arabesque
  • Violet Hill
  • ∞ (Infinity)
  • Something Just Like This / Breakaway
  • My Universe
  • A Sky Full Of Stars
  • Sunrise
  • Sparks
  • Jumbotron Song
  • Humankind
  • Fix You
  • Feelslikeimfallinginglove

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Little Simz gave a thrilling performance immediately before Coldplay

Coldplay were preceded on the Pyramid Stage by Little Simz, playing her only UK show of the year – but if she was rusty, it didn’t show.

The Londoner staged a hip-hop masterclass that highlighted both her lyrical flex and her magnetic stage presence.

She stood alone on stage for the opening salvo of Silhouette, No Merci and I Love You, I Hate You – each of which highlight the independent artist’s hard-won success.

“Don’t you know I’m God’s child? Got here on my own,” she rapped on Silhouette.

It’s a theme she returned to on the night’s only new song, The Code, which featured a brilliant clap-back to her detractors: “You can move the goalposts and I’ll still keep scoring.”

Having established her credentials, she relaxed a little, bringing out Nigerian singer Obongjayar for the supple Point And Kill before segueing into more mellow songs like Woman and Selfish.

The clamour and excitement grew as her set continued. Towards the end, the rapper removed her shades and surveyed the audience, looking visibly moved.

“This is so mad for me,” she said. “I’ve been doing music since I was knee high and this is by far the most people I’ve ever performed in front of.

“It really is a dream.”

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Newcomers The Last Dinner Party drew a huge crowd to The Other Stage

Other sets on the Pyramid Stage on Saturday came from Cyndi Lauper – who suffered from technical issues that affected her vocals – and indie band Keane, marking the 20th anniversary of their chart-topping debut album Hopes and Fears.

“It changed our lives,” said a frontman Tom Chaplin, leading the audience on a full-throated singalong through hits like Somewhere Only We Know, Bedshaped and Everybody’s Changing.

The Other Stage had an eclectic line-up that included pop star indie heroes Bloc Party, newcomers The Last Dinner Party and pop star Camila Cabello, whose quirky set saw her riding around on a BMX.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Jessie Ware put on a spirited show, despite diminished audience numbers at the West Holts stage

Kasabian played a not-so-secret set at the Woodsies tent, which was filled to bursting point, while pop queen Jessie Ware headlined on West Holts – bringing feel-good disco anthems to a disappoingly small crowd. (Blame Coldplay).

She gave it her all, though, hot-stepping through the wonky disco groove of Freak Me Now, and brandishing a microphone stand that doubled as a dominatrix’s whip, to the delight of her diehard fans.

“I’m here to have a good time, not to earn a good time,” said one.

Elsewhere, Disclosure brought out Sam Smith to play Latch as they headlined The Other Stage, and South Korean DJ Peggy Gou got festivalgoers ready for the all-night dance arenas with an invigorating set on The Park Stage.

In other words, there was too much music – and too much variety – for anyone to consume in one day.

The entertainment continues on Sunday with R&B star SZA headlining the Pyramid Stage and Shania Twain expected to draw the weekend’s biggest audience for her mid-afternoon performance in the legend slot.

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