Coldplay commits to sustainable live performances Coldplay is pledging to make the band's current tour "as sustainable and low carbon as possible."

Back from a touring hiatus, Coldplay pledges to make performances more sustainable

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1098947216/1098969492" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, if you're a fan of live music, you already know your happy place is back. That's because many artists and bands are back on tour for the first time in more than two years, including Coldplay. The band's current tour, called Music of Spheres, is actually their first since 2016.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY UNIVERSE")

COLDPLAY AND BTS: (Singing) You, you are my universe, and you make my world light up inside.

MARTIN: That's "My Universe." It's a track from their latest album, featuring the K-pop sensations BTS. But Coldplay's hiatus from touring actually started before the pandemic. The band decided not to tour in 2019 following the release of their previous album, "Everyday Life," because of environmental concerns. But now they're back, pledging to make their Music of Spheres tour as sustainable and low carbon as possible. We talked about this with Coldplay's lead singer, Chris Martin, and lead guitarist, Jonny Buckland. And I started our conversation by asking how they started to think about touring again, given their concerns about sustainability and the impact on the environment.

CHRIS MARTIN: Well, that's a great question, Michel. I think, you know, we're very blessed that we get to play in really big buildings and stadiums and stuff. And that's an amazing thing in terms of the human connection. But then when you're leaving or you're arriving, you see all these trucks. You know, there's just so much energy around it, literally and figuratively. But in this case, we were becoming aware on our last tour, you know, that it does have a big impact when you do an event like that in a city and everyone has to travel to get there and, you know, all of the things that are required to bring people together in those numbers. And so I think we felt that, as we are a bit older and we're very fortunate with being able to afford to experiment with certain things, we should think about how, next time we toured, which is this time, we could do things in a slightly more thoughtful way environmentally.

MARTIN: Jonny, talk a little bit more about those - the discussions that you had among yourselves. I mean, this is - first of all, this is a massive undertaking. I mean, you're addressing every aspect of a tour. You're calling on fans to use low-carbon transportation to get to the show. I can see where it's exciting to try something new, but I'm still kind of wondering what some of the conversations were like among you. I mean, I can imagine where some might say, you know what? I've worked hard, and I deserve to be comfortable when I travel, thank you very much. And I...

JONNY BUCKLAND: Well, I think that, you know, when Chris did this interview where he set - he sort of set our goal out in - it was probably 2019, we - our initial reaction was like...

MARTIN: You idiot (laughter).

BUCKLAND: Oh, oh, God, is that even possible? You know? (Laughter).

MARTIN: What have you done?

BUCKLAND: Yeah. Exactly. But then so much information started coming in, and you sort of start to feel a bit more positive about the likelihood of being able to do it. But it's still extremely challenging. And I think, you know, there's still a lot of things - a lot of decisions that you didn't realize were quite as complex as they are, you know?

MARTIN: Like what?

BUCKLAND: Like the fact that we still have to fly, you know, is a problem. And, you know, therefore, we sort of try and source the most sustainable fuel we can for flying. But obviously, it's not a perfect solution.

MARTIN: Did - this is a painful question, but - especially for your fans - but did you ever consider not touring at all anymore because of that?

MARTIN: Well, that's a great question, Michel. Of course we did. And of course, ultimately, the best thing we could all do for the environment is either disappear from the planet altogether or not go anywhere - as humans, I mean. So we have to acknowledge a certain - I don't know if you'd call it selfishness or a certain - placing a certain value on other elements of being a human, which is connection and music and everything. But of course, we considered that. And I - our critics could easily say that would be a much better option and preferable for them, I imagine, musically, too. But we decided, well, we really want to tour. We really want to show that a different way of touring is possible.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HUMANKIND")

COLDPLAY: (Singing) Oh, I know, I know, I know we're only human. But from another planet, still they call us humankind.

MARTIN: Always wanted to ask each of you, like, Jonny, you sort of indicated there is a lot of just - there are a lot of decisions to be made. It's like - I don't know. I've never gone on tour. I don't know what - I mean, obviously, I've gone on reporting trips, but I have never gone on a massive stadium tour. So I'm imagining there's lots of decisions to be made. But what are you most excited about, and what are you most worried about, if you don't mind sharing that?

BUCKLAND: Yeah. I'm excited about this working, you know, really. And - but most of all, I'm excited about being on tour and connecting with people and playing our music people. That's - ultimately, that's what we love to do and a very big part of why we love being in a band and making music. Most worried about, I suppose, stuff really not working. You know, it just, you know, doesn't make any difference. But I also feel like we're open to changing and open to, you know, constantly checking on whether things are working and are making our tour more sustainable.

MARTIN: Yeah. Well, on a happier note, though, what are you most excited about? I mean, I love the floor. Apparently, the floor, that's supposed to generate energy. I'm excited to see that. What are you most (inaudible)...

MARTIN: That's cool. Well, that is...

MARTIN: What are you most excited about?

MARTIN: Well, those two elements, we have a bunch of bicycles and then two areas of kinetic flooring. And those are the most fun because everyone can be involved with them. And we - as soon as the doors open, people can start doing that. And then every half an hour or so, we play "Jump Around" by House of Pain, and people create energy like that. And then during the show, people are on the bikes. And I think that's the most uplifting because you can really see the people power of it all. And just as our life as a band is powered by our audience, so in this sense, it's literally giving us the electricity we need, or at least part of it.

MARTIN: Well, congratulations. Thank you so much. Fingers crossed that it all goes well. At least if it doesn't all go well, at least it goes well enough to teach you something.

MARTIN: Yeah. Well, I think so far, we're seeing that it goes well and it goes badly all at the same time.

MARTIN: Which is life. OK.

MARTIN: Yeah.

MARTIN: That is lead singer Chris Martin and guitarist Jonny Buckland of Coldplay talking about making their latest Music of Spheres tour more sustainable. Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, thank you so much for talking with us. It's been a delight.

BUCKLAND: Hey, Michel, thank you very much.

MARTIN: And I look forward to seeing you in person.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HIGHER POWER")

COLDPLAY: (Singing) That you've got a higher power, got me singing every second, dancing every hour. Oh, yeah, you've got a higher power, and you're really someone I want to know, oh.

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.