The last time Coldplay played a full show in New York City, the hit-making British group filled the 100,000-person MetLife Stadium two nights in a row in July 2016. More than five years later, the quartet took a much smaller stage: Harlem’s legendary 1,500-cap venue the Apollo Theater. “We’ve been dreaming of playing here for a long, long time,” frontman Chris Martin told the crowd. “We didn’t think it would ever happen.”
SiriusXM and Pandora made it happen with their Small Stage Series on Thursday (Sept. 23). The invite-only show saw the likes of Watch What Happens Live! host Andy Cohen, former Fox anchor Megyn Kelly, and New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard in attendance. But regardless of any famous clientele, the energy in the room from start to finish made it evident that everyone was psyched to see Coldplay in such an intimate setting.
The 90-minute concert included five new songs from the band’s upcoming album Music of the Spheres (due Oct. 15 via Atlantic/Parlophone) — yes, including their highly anticipated BTS team-up, “My Universe” — as well as fan favorites like “Yellow” and “A Sky Full of Stars.” As Coldplay’s biggest show since before the pandemic, it was a special night for the band and fans alike.
Check out some of the show’s highlights below.
The fact that you could actually watch Chris Martin play piano
Unless you’ve been fortunate to have tickets in the first 10 or 20 rows of a Coldplay show in the past, you’re typically looking at the big screen to watch Chris Martin work his magic. One of the coolest parts about being at a small-stage Coldplay show is that no matter your seat, you have a view of Martin’s hands as they tickle the ivories — because there’s no big screen to resort to, even if you wanted it.
The religious “Fix You” experience
A setting like the Apollo transcends a typical concert experience as it is, but there was something truly magical about the Apollo performance of “Fix You.” It was almost as if Coldplay had turned the venue into a church, with several fans raising hands in the air as they sang along to the song’s rolling chorus and others embracing each other as they swayed along. Then as the band went into the instrumental bridge, the crowd harmoniously began the “Tears stream down your face” breakdown, which had guitarist Jonny Buckland and bassist Guy Berryman clapping. Even Martin had to admit afterward, “I think you sounded better on that bit.”
The mini James Brown tribute
Martin told the crowd that Berryman had enlightened his bandmates about James Brown’s 1963 Live at the Apollo album, which Martin noted was recorded at the venue “58 years, 10 months and 30 days ago.” After a slew of thank yous for allowing Coldplay to grace the same stage, Martin declared that their next song was in honor of Brown, “Because he was the king.” No, it wasn’t a cover of any James Brown classic or anything particularly close — it was 2008 Billboard Hot 100-topper “Viva La Vida” — but Martin did manage to work in a snippet of “I Got You (I Feel Good)” in the song’s bridge.
The full-on rock show in one song
Anyone who has seen Coldplay will testify that they put on quite a show, but who knew they could totally shred? The band debuted the Music of the Spheres track “People of the Pride,” which is arguably their grungiest song to date. Its heavy electric guitar riff (à la Muse) sent Martin and the crowd into a frenzy, with one fan summing up the face-melter in one exclaiming phrase: “OH MY GOD, YES!”
The unabashed honesty from Chris Martin
While “People of the Pride” was a definite crowd pleaser, it was also apparently a new experience for Martin, as he looked exhausted before the band went into their 2015 single “Adventure of a Lifetime.” “We’ve never done that song into this song, so we’ve got to work on that segue,” Martin joked. “And it’s a totally different mood! Just give me 10 seconds.”
He made other quips throughout the show, even calling himself out for talking too much (“This is not talk-radio Coldplay, this is music-radio Coldplay”), but that made the intimate show all the more special. Martin also acknowledged that some longtime Coldplay fans may “think our new stuff is shit.” Even so, if there’s any joke about what Coldplay has become, Martin is clearly in on it.
The stripped-down version of “Yellow”
Though the majority of the concert was a scaled-down version of the spectacle that is a Coldplay light show, “Yellow” served as Martin’s opportunity to take advantage of playing a smaller venue. He broke out the acoustic guitar for a stripped-down rendition of their 2000 hit, which let his tender vocals soar and ultimately became one of the most memorable moments of the night.
The mid-show poem reading
Before “Yellow,” Martin announced that his favorite poet — and, according to the singer, also his “biggest hero in the world” — Coleman Barks was in attendance and would be delivering a poem. “That, for me, is a big, big deal,” Martin gushed.
The 84-year-old was joined by his wife Lisa, both of whom Martin referred to as “the cavalry.” Barks recited interpretations of “The Guest House” and “What Was Said to the Rose” by Persian poet Rumi, during which a beaming Martin strummed a guitar. Whether or not the audience connected to Barks’ words, it was a special moment that felt like Martin’s way of celebrating their Apollo opportunity.
The BTS collab (minus BTS)
Just hours before “My Universe” arrived, those at The Apollo got to hear the BTS collaboration, which Martin declared is about “always fighting for love.” Of the five new songs Coldplay played, it felt like “My Universe” was the one Martin enjoyed performing most, bouncing around the stage with a smile. The exuberant tune is certainly a fun one for a live performance, particularly the funky jam session at the very end.
The crowd’s passion for an encore
Martin facetiously warned that they’d be closing the show with their 10-minute Music of the Spheres track “Coloratura” following the more amped-up pre-closer “A Sky Full of Stars.” “If you want to go after that, you’re totally free,” Martin quipped. “We won’t be offended at all.”
But hardly a soul left, and even after the lengthy last performance, the crowd wanted more. “One more song” chants began as fans hooted and hollered, and for a split second it seemed like there may have been a chance for a true, well-deserved encore. Unfortunately the riled-up audience was left disappointed, especially when the house lights came on (which resulted in a gaggle of boos). But hey, they got a 10-minute song for a finale, and that’s all any true Coldplay fan wants, right?