Is Coldplay over? Like any good movie cliff-hanger, their new documentary ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ suggests the band has wrapped up, but then again we all thought Mr Burns was dead once too.
Mat Whitecross made ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ with total control over what went in and what was cut. Mat, a school friend of the band before they were the band, has been filming Chris Martin, Johnny Buckland, Guy Berryman and Will Champion along with former manager, now Creative Director Phil Harvey since school, at their first gig when they were called Starfish, at their second gig when they became Coldplay and right through to the last tour.
For ‘A Head Full of Dreams’, over 1000 hours of footage became seven hours of footage and then two hours of footage which you see on the screen.
The question about the band’s break-up is never stated, only implied. What we learn is that the future of Coldplay is yet to be written but the last album ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ is referred to as “the final album’ in the movie. The movie was made to deal with “the end of an era” but does that mean a new Coldplay era is about to begin? They never say.
What is so incredible in this story is that it could only ever have been made by a mate. No-one would ever have this amount of access over this amount of time. Whitecross captured an incredible story but because of time, a lot of key points are skipped.
Coldplay is a band of brothers. What we see are four guys who create as one. Martin, Buckland, Berryman and Champion have shared the songwriting credit on all songs since ‘Parachutes’ (2000). With the exception of a questionable time for Will where he was nearly turfed from the band, the line-up has never changed. As an insider, Mat Whitecross has captured the brotherhood as only an insider can.
The chemistry is purely organic. At one point Chris Martin talks about how critics try to write them off as a manufactured boyband, but there is nothing manufactured and nothing juvenile about their music. They write everything, they play on everything, they produced most of it and it is all real.
When guests like Beyonce and Kylie Minogue were brought in it was to expand the creativity. They also added Brian Eno as producer on the fourth album ‘Viva La Vida’ to evolve the sound. They wanted what Eno had done with Bowie, U2 and Talking Heads and certainly achieved it. And Mat Whitecross was in the room when that happened to capture that too.
Along the way we see snippets of Coldplay shows over the years. Melbourne and Sydney flash up on the screen. Yes, Whitecross was in Australia with them on that last tour too.
The most telling seen was Chris Martin in the unknown Coldplay in 1998 looking down the barrel of the camera and saying “We are going to go on to be such a huge band. This will be on national television within four years. Four years.” Fours years and three days later Coldplay headlined Glastonbury.
As Coldplay got bigger, the critics got nastier. Tall poppy syndrome kicked in and in one scene Martin is saying “I’m depressed because The New York Times hate us”. Martin’s relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow made him tabloid fodder and that impacted on the image of the band. That attention pissed off the other three members for all of 10 seconds until they realised they were the lucky and anonymous ones.
‘A Head Full of Dreams’ is an amazing insight into a band from Big Bang to break-up …(is it is just hiatus).
As I mentioned, the end is a cliff-hanger. We will all have to wait and see how this story turns out … and they have left it to go either way.
‘A Head Full of Dreams’ screened in thousands of cinemas world-wide on 14 November 2018. It will stream on Amazon Prime from 16 November and will be released on DVD with the live album ‘Live in Buenos Aires’ and live DVD ‘Live in São Paulo’ on 7 December 2018.