Coldplay in Abu Dhabi

Drummer Will Champion talks to Time Out ahead of UAE gig


Whether or not you dig the mostly morose refrains of British alternative rock, you can’t deny that Coldplay performing live will make you feel like the guys on stage are your mates. It has little to do with your parasocial fan-fervour, and more to do with that endearing, easy-going attitude which has them engaging the audience so well. Now the seven-times Grammy award winning band is returning to the capital to usher in the New Year, so Elest Ali caught up with Coldplay's Will Champion, across 3206 miles and a three-hour time gap (he was calling from Belgium, where it was very cold.)

This is going to be your second gig in Abu Dhabi, How was the audience last time?
It was great actually, although I seem to remember it was the one day of rain in the last nine years that they’d had in Abu Dhabi and we had to play an outdoor concert on that evening, and it was a downpour. But yeah the fans were great it was a fantastic evening.

I hear it added to the atmosphere.
Yeah I think so. Weather tends to excite people, so it was great.

Ok, if you had super-powers what would they be?
Super-powers... um... I suppose flying really, it’s a pretty basic one but I think it’d be pretty amazing. Simple but effective.

Can’t argue with that. So you guys are gonna be here for New Year’s, won’t you be missing your family?
Actually all my family are gonna be there, my father-in-law lives in Dubai so we’re gonna be out there for New Year’s and a few days afterwards. So yeah we’ll be enjoying the warm weather over the New Year period.

That’s great. You’re familiar with the region then?
Yeah I came to Abu Dhabi about 6 years ago to visit him with my wife. He’s been out in Dubai for about three years. He used to work all over the Middle East and Saudi and various places, and he lived in Abu Dhabi as well. So yeah we’ve been to Dubai a couple of times on holiday since he’s been out there. It’s a great place for the kids.

Are there any Middle Eastern musicians you like?
Yeah there’s Rachid Taha, he’s a fantastic musician. We worked with Brian Eno on the last two records and he’s kind of a student of a lot of music from all over the world. There so much music around at the moment and a lot of pop music shouts very loud. So sometimes it’s hard to give music from other parts of the world its fair due. When we recorded Viva la Vida we had a percussionist come in to help us out with some tracks. He was from Egypt, and it was absolutely mesmerising. He was just a brilliant, brilliant player. So I’m looking forward to catching some of the music while we’re out there.

About the new album; you guys have said that Viva la Vida reflects Hispanic influences, what influenced Mylo Xyloto?
I suppose, initially we were very inspired by the idea of graffiti and the idea of using a lot of visual art and street art. We were also inspired by music that is popular at the moment. You can’t escape the world of pop and urban music, and when it’s done well it’s really fantastic and powerful. But generally we were trying to make a record that sounded positive and uplifting. It’s very easy to become obsessed with how dark and how difficult the world is at times, especially when you read the newspapers or watch the news on telly, and it’s all very much doom and gloom. We wanted to try and bring a bit of optimism for people who still want to feel good about things.

I think the album definitely does that, it’s a lot more upbeat than your older stuff as well.
Yeah, oh that’s good, Thank you.

Ok, Mylo Xyloto – please tell us what it means.
Well it’s deliberately kind of ambiguous I suppose – we wanted something that didn’t have any other connotations and that couldn’t mean anything else. In our heads it means a few different things to us. It could be the name of a kind of character on whom the story of the album is based, or it’s like an alter-ego for the band; a graffiti tag name kind of thing. For us it stands for the whole world we tried to create around the music.

So this character that the story of the album was based on, where did he come from?
I think when we were working on the record there was a very strong sense of a story. We originally started to write a kind of soundtrack to an animated film, we had an idea for. The film didn’t end up getting made because it takes us a long time to record albums and it takes even longer to make films. So we took away that idea, but we were still left with this framework of this story, and Mylo is perhaps the main protagonist in it.

Who came up with the elephant in the video for Paradise?
Well that was born from a kind of necessity really. We had recorded two other videos for the song Paradise, neither of which had come out very well at all. And we were playing some concerts in South Africa when Chris and our friend Matt Whitecross, came up with an idea. It was done within 2 days and it was amazing. We drove about three hours north of Cape Town and filmed our bit on a Cheetah reserve. It was just the most incredible countryside, and we got to meet a cheetah as well.

Brilliant! How did you like being in the elephant suit in Africa?
It wasn’t as hot as I had feared! The idea of standing in a big fluffy suit in the African Savannah, is not necessarily what you’d imagine.

What’s the craziest experience you’ve had while you were on tour?
Probably when our tour manager nearly falling out of a tour bus when we were on the motorway. We had this rickety old tour bus and the back door was by the bottom of the stairs, it was one of those double-decker buses and all the beds are upstairs and the lounge and things are downstairs. So he was coming down the stairs and he kind of lent on the door and it swung open while we were going along the motorway. Luckily, one of our crew-members grabbed him by the jacket and pulled him back in and slammed the door. But yeah that was pretty extreme.

Oh, no! Was it one of you guys that grabbed him?
No, we were all kind of sitting in the back lounge, and a lot of us just probably thought that was it for him. But Matt, our guitar tech, had the reflex to grab him and pull him back in.

Close one. Ok finally, Chris Martin has previously said that Coldplay are all just working for Will Champion. Does this make you the voice of reason or the bossy one?
Neither really, I don’t know. He was over-exaggerating perhaps. I think I just speak my mind more often than others. I find it difficult to be – what’s the word – diplomatic at times. So if I don’t like something I tend to point it out. But we’re all the same in that way really, we’re all very honest. We’ve been friends for a long time, we know how we work best and we’re very honest with each other.
Coldplay will be rocking Abu Dhabi into the New Year on Dec 31 at Abu Dhabi Breakwater.

A word of advice: you’ll save yourself some trouble if you carpool or take a cab! There’ll be a Park and Ride service which is there to drive you from the main Corniche parking lot (next to Hilton Hotel) to the venue at Volvo ocean race destination village.

An iMan shuttle bus service from Dubai to Abu Dhabi (and back to Dubai) is available. It departs from Umm Suqeim (West) Road parking area with the first bus setting off at 5.30pm (for fan pit early access ticket holders) and then at 6.30pm. Tickets are Dhs85 and can be purchased along with your concert ticket at

Doors open at 8pm (7pm for early access ticket holders.) And finally, it’ll be chilly at the beach this time of year, so wear warm clothes and sensible shoes!

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