Too close to the bone? Coldplay spends a night at the Natural History Museum

29 November 2019

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories

‘It’s so hard, as a British person, not to come up with Natural History Museum puns for the whole show.’ Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay, was addressing the audience that had gathered in the great hall of the museum last Sunday evening. To promote their latest album, the band was putting on on a surprise performance, strumming away beneath the imposing skeleton of Hope the blue whale.

Rakewell finds Martin’s wish to refrain from wordplay rather refreshing – though the songster couldn’t resist altogether. Martin continued: ‘The last artist who tried that was Dodo, and you know what happened to her’, before quipping that he had asked his managers for a gig ‘near Wales’.

The choice of venue is part of the band’s championing of climate activism; its intimate scale signalling that the band’s commitment not to tour is not just a load of hot air. It feels novel for a band to use the setting of a museum to promote such a cause – usually, things are the other way around, with museums attempting to harness star power. Remember MoMA’s roundly panned retrospective of Bjork?

Leading the pack of pop stars performing in museums, however, is Solange Knowles. When the singer has staged events at the Guggenheim, Tate Modern, and most recently the Getty Center, she has paid immaculate attention to costumes and choreography, to ‘create something soulful, intimate and communal’, and to reflect the particular feel of the architecture and the collections of the museums. Perhaps if Martin had taken a leaf out of her book, he might have thought twice about taking his seasoned band to perform among some old fossils…

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.

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