SHOUT TO THE TOP
So what we suspected - but weren't at liberty to confirm - turns out to be true. There will be another Coldplay album next year, currently set for release in December '09.
Chris Martin broke the news during a convivial chat with REM's Michael Stipe and yours truly on BBC 6 Music on Saturday afternoon. What's more surprising is that there will be a new EP, Prospects March, released around Christmas... ("hopefully December 26th, something like that").
All of which seems to confirm earlier suspicions that the sessions with Brian Eno for the current album Viva La Vida were so productive that they had songs to spare - although the band still claim the next album is far from finished. In the meantime, we got to hear a laid-back Coldplay democratically choosing the title for the EP, live on air, with the added bonus of Stipe having the casting vote.
Released from the uncomfortable routine of promoting a record Martin - and the rest of the band for that matter - chatted away as if we'd just met at a bus stop. There's even a point where I thought bassist Guy was about to get his holiday snaps out.
To follow the interview, they went on to play a tiny gig in the BBC Radio Theatre in front of about 300 fans which was equally warm and relaxed. Martin, sporadically chatty and self-deprecating, was also back to his old cheeky self, introducing Trouble with the line "We wrote this song so long ago that some of you weren't even in your 40s."
Which is a subtle role reversal isn't it? Band heckle audience! I've heard groups berate their followers over sundry, silly matters before; or seen failing support bands try and shout and swear their way off a stage, but I don't think I've come across a band taking the micky out of us. But here lies some of Coldplay's charm.
And anyway, maybe it's about time that some bands sharpened up their act. We've given them enough stick down the years.
The grief bands get at gigs comes in many forms. There's the ironic cheer when a support band announce "This is our last song", or the more minimal, basic "get off you're rubbish (or colloquial words to that effect)". But I quite admire a clever heckle. Does anyone remember the new wave band 'These Animal Men' falling apart on stage at Reading Festival and in a gap in the shambles someone at the back of the tent, helpfully hollered "Taxi for These Animal Men!" Being chaps who could duly take a joke they used the line as the title of their next album!
I once saw a friend of mine - the guitarist in a band - stumble and nearly keel over during a particularly effusive guitar solo in the middle of one of their songs. He managed to regain his composure before toppling off the stage, looked round to see if anyone had noticed and casually raced to the end of the song. Sadly someone had noticed. After the applause had dribbled away a lone voice shouted: "Oi you! Fall over again!"
It didn't sound malicious, but as all good heckles do, it burst that bubble of cool. And that's enough for most people....until audiences go bad.
The most destroying heckle I've ever heard was saved for The Tears - the band formed by ex-Suede members Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler. Making their big London debut at the Astoria - which was all pomp and bluster for the opening five minutes - they finished their second song, only for a voice of doom to cut through the hall.
"Awful. (pause). Really awful."
Never have three words sounded so loud (they reverberated round the theatre for what seemed like hours) and so viciously damning. I wonder if they ever truly recovered from them. For a group of well respected, not to mention tactically aloof musicians to be cut down to size so easily must have been incredibly traumatic. It's like those nightmares you have about giving a speech at school, except you're naked on stage at the lectern and you've forgotten the words. And then the headmaster from the back of the class yells "Awful Lamacq! Really awful."
This is why I've revised my opinion about introducing football chants at gigs. Although don't let me stop you if you're faced with some talentless over-priced twerps getting too big for their boots. I'd suggest "Down with the Britpop, you're going down with the Britpop." Or maybe: "Hit band no fans, hit band no fans." Or even: "One song....you've only got one song." Although don't try that one out on Coldplay. They've apparently got bloody hundreds of songs.