Why I had to fly to Singapore just to catch Coldplay

By Stan Sy

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was edited on Friday, April 21, 2017 due to an accusation of plagiarism by Manila Bulletin contributor Isabelle Laureta who also wrote an article about her live Coldplay experience, specifically the passage about the band’s song “Everglow.” While author Stan Sy and Scout deny any intentional plagiarism, we have agreed to delete the offending passage and deeply apologize to Ms. Laureta and the Manila Bulletin for any distress and inconvenience it may have caused. We at Scout are committed to upholding journalistic and ethical values, and thank you for your patience and understanding with regard to this issue.

When Coldplay announced last November that they would be performing in Manila for the first time, I’m sure I wasn’t the only fan who thought to myself, I don’t care how much those tickets cost. I will go see Coldplay live before they disband. I owe that to myself. Truth is, there really are only a handful of artists I would say that about, and Coldplay is one of them.

In the 17 years since I first heard “Yellow,” I never found a reason to justify my fandom of Coldplay. But now that I think about it, I’ve realized just why I love their music so much. With almost every album they’ve put out, there’s always bound to be one song or two that just touch me on such a personal level that I’m moved to tears. Whether it was “Yellow,” “The Scientist,” “In My Place,” “Fix You,” or “Everglow,” the way they sang about love, loss, grief, joy, and pain would be so colorful and relatable at the same time. You don’t even have to have the same experiences Chris Martin did. You could just as easily imagine that he was singing about you.

At the same time, a lot of their happier songs always seemed to take you on the right kind of high if you wanted to go on a musical soundtrip. “Speed of Sound,” “Lost!” (especially the Jay Z remix), “Paradise,” and even the collaboration with the Chainsmokers are all just the right type of songs to bring you back to the other side of the emotional spectrum. (Just don’t ask me to sit through a wedding entrance with “Viva La Vida” as the couple’s entrance’s theme. I’ve gone through that one too many times.)

The problem is, none of us were ever really prepared for how much the tickets would actually cost: P22,500 for VIP, P17,500 for Platinum, P12,500 for Gold, P7,500 for Silver, P3,500 for Bronze, and P1,800 for general admission.

Well, shit. Did I really want to cough up a minimum of PhP 3,500 just to watch Coldplay from the other side of the huge open ground? Not to mention all the stress that will come with having to drive/Uber/Grab to the Mall of Asia area, find parking, weave through the all the people there, stand on uneven ground that may or may not be muddy, and then brave the traffic on the way out? (Spoiler alert: My sister who attended the Manila show said it started at 9 PM, but people wouldn’t make it out of the MoA Concert Grounds until 2 AM because of the sheer traffic. So, no, it wasn’t worth it.)

Well, shit. Did I really want to cough up a minimum of PhP 3,500 just to watch Coldplay from the other side of the huge open ground?

I immediately asked my girlfriend to ask her Singapore-based brother to buy concert tickets for us for the Singapore show. While it was no easy feat either, he managed to get enough tickets for all of us in Standing Pen B of Singapore’s National Stadium. That’s pretty much like being in the Gold Section of the MoA Concert Grounds.

And I know we weren’t the only ones who had that action plan. Just look through your Facebook timeline. I’m sure you also had friends who took trips to Singapore, Taipei, Seoul, or even Tokyo this month just to catch Coldplay.

Here’s the best part. We got the tickets at roughly a third of the Gold Section’s cost. To add to that, unlike the MoA Concert Grounds, I was pretty sure that Singapore’s National Stadium would be a better venue because of its layout. It had the type of seating where everyone present could somehow appreciate the performers on stage, as opposed to the type of layout here in Manila, where if you had a Gen. Ad. ticket, your best shot of seeing Chris Martin live was waiting for him to bike past you around the Mall of Asia grounds.

How messed up is it that it costs less to get good tickets to the Singapore show and to fly to Singapore—or the other cities on the tour, for that matter—than to buy just one ticket to the Manila show? When you look at it that way, doesn’t it defeat the purpose of bringing the act to Manila in the first place? Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m self-aware enough to know that I’m pretty fortunate to have been able to do that in the first place. But not everybody is.

I know I’m not the only person who’s ever needed to listen to “The Scientist” when I need a moment of clarity to get my head on straight or “Fix You” in a time of grief. And that’s why it’s fucked up that not every Coldplay fan from the Philippines was able to watch the concert in the first place.

“I know I’m not the only person who’s ever needed to listen to “The Scientist” when I need a moment of clarity to get my head on straight or “Fix You” in a time of grief. And that’s why it’s fucked up that not every Coldplay fan from the Philippines was able to watch the concert in the first place.

I get it. There’s a lot that goes into ticket pricing, and what you pay for is split in so many directions and goes to so many people—a group that includes the government, by the way, let me just leave that in there. The thing is, when the prices are as exorbitant as they were for the Coldplay show—and even more for the upcoming Britney Spears concert—then you know there is a problem with concert promoters conducting business the way they are right now.

Not long after booking our tickets, I booked the Singapore flights for my girlfriend and I, which when you add it to the cost of the tickets, came out to roughly the same price as the Gold ticket in Manila. At this point, I’d convinced myself that I’d gotten the better deal. After all, I get to see Coldplay live and get to spend a weekend in Singapore for the same price of a Gold ticket. Plus, I get to spare myself from all that traffic in Manila on April 4. Not a bad deal at all.

How messed up is it that it costs less to get tickets to the Singapore show and to fly to Singapore—or the other cities on the tour, for that matter—than to buy just one ticket to the Manila show? When you look at it that way, doesn’t it defeat the purpose of bringing the act to Manila in the first place?

When the day finally came, I was overwhelmed at just how long the lines already were—and to think we arrived at the venue at 5:30 PM! Apparently, people had already been in line as early as 11 AM that day, just so they could get as close as they could to the stage. That also meant they got first dibs on the merch booth.

It would be another hour until we were allowed to enter the venue, and when we finally did, all these ridiculously long lines of people snaked their way in towards the National Stadium.

The best part of it all was how orderly it was. It would have been easy to make it chaotic the way all these long lines would be back home. But everyone just walked calmly forward—except for this group of girls in front of us, who were clearly pregaming in line. Homegirls had an entire bottle of vodka that they poured onto McDonald’s paper cups, which they downed without hesitation as we walked in. I wonder how those girls enjoyed the show.

When we got inside the Stadium, I had to stop walking for a moment to take in the enormity of the place. Up to that point, I haven’t been inside a venue that large and I marveled at the idea of 50,000 to 60,000 people just occupying the same space and enjoying one act together. My girlfriend snapped me out of it and made me walk faster towards our group so we could have a better spot in our area.

Once we got there, we realized that the influx of people wouldn’t stop, which meant that if any of us had to go to the bathroom, we had to do it immediately or risk getting stuck there with a full bladder until the end of the show. You know that feeling of commuting via the LRT1 and MRT during rush hour, when you’re squeezed so tightly in a mass of people that you can barely breathe, let alone move? That’s how we eventually felt when everybody was finally inside the Stadium.

One of the things that impressed me was how everything began on time. Jess Kent, the Australian singer who opened for Coldplay, was on stage at exactly 7 p.m. and was done at exactly 7:30 p.m. The lights dimmed for Coldplay at exactly 7:59, and by 8:01, the band was already playing “A Head Full Of Dreams.”

A Head Full Of Dreams kicking off the second #ColdplaySingapore show. R42 #AHFODTour

A post shared by Coldplay (@coldplay) on

On a personal note, I was slightly disappointed that they didn’t open with a more powerful song like “Viva La Vida” or “Clocks” or “Adventure of a Lifetime.” Those three were my guesses in the Guess-The-First-Song game I play with a friend or two at concerts.

I lost it by the second song they played, which was “Yellow.” I’d always had a soft spot for that song, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one whose eyes began to well up just because we were all hearing that song being performed live by Coldplay right in front of us.

But it wasn’t until “The Scientist” was playing when it sunk in just how far my journey had taken me. I’d been listening to this band for the last 17 years, going through album after album, and just being amazed that their music had connected with me in ways I didn’t expect nor imagine. “The Scientist” meant so much to me that I never passed up an opportunity to play it on the radio during my stint as a radio DJ.

When Chris Martin sang, “Nobody said it was easy…” it felt like he was speaking to my fandom about how far I’d go just to finally see them perform live. And in that moment, I just wanted to have a good cry to appreciate how much I loved the band, their music, and their message of love, which would continue to be their theme through the whole show.

There were some light moments, too, like when “Adventure of a Lifetime” played and the balloons were released into the crowd. All the balloons bouncing around and being spiked in different directions was a fun sight to see and just added to the colorful nature of the song and the show. There was also that surprise tribute to David Bowie when they performed his song “Heroes,” which I particularly enjoyed because I’ve always loved that track. And then there was the adlibbed song he sang for Singapore, which everyone totally ate up. (After that, I began to wonder if Chris Martin would recycle the melody and chords for the Manila song a few days later.)

By the time Coldplay wrapped the show up with their last three songs—”Something Just Like This,” “A Sky Full of Stars,” and “Up and Up”—the National Stadium had turned into a party of epic proportions. Balloons were still being bounced in different directions, paper stars were being shot out of the sky and raining down upon us, and the most colorful fireworks display made me forget how much I hate pyrotechnics in general! It was pretty much everything I expected out of a Coldplay show and more. 

Sure, there were reports of the promoters blaming the ridiculously high prices on the entertainment tax, or an advance of the band’s talent fee. But at this point, it really doesn’t matter because fans are ultimately the victims here. Not everyone can afford to just book a weekend trip to Singapore on a whim.

However, all that aside, I went home that night wanting to pinch myself. I never thought Coldplay would even consider including the Philippines as a stop on their tour, let alone get a chance to see them live. Like most of us on social media, I also wanted to ask if the Manila concert tickets had a RiteMed price. And when we realized just how exorbitant those prices would be, I realized if I wanted to see them, then I’d have to make my own way. And that led me over 2,300 kilometers southwest to Singapore, where 17 years of Coldplay fandom culminated in me getting lost in their music to the point of wanting to just have a good cry.

Was it worth it? Damn right—it was the adventure of a lifetime. But why go through it in the first place? Why spend all that time, money, and effort just to watch a concert? I’m sure your parents, titos, or titas would have asked you the same question at some point. Why can’t you just pop their CD or vinyl into a player or stream the setlist on a Spotify playlist?

It just wouldn’t be the same. Going to a concert is pretty much like traveling to a new country, or even a new city. Yeah, it’ll cost time, money, and effort. But you do it for the experience of doing so. There’s something special about having the memory of being at that place, of sharing the same air as your favorite artists, seeing them perform the songs you grew up to right in front of you, and in some cases, even singing your heart out as if you were singing with them. I’ve been to enough concerts to know that those are memories you’ll take with you for years and years to come; and you can’t just put a price tag on that.

“There’s something special about having the memory of being at that place, of sharing the same air as your favorite artists, seeing them perform the songs you grew up to right in front of you, and in some cases, even singing your heart out as if you were singing with them.”

And yet that’s what these promoters are trying to do so blatantly—to put a price tag on these memories we want to create, on the experiences we want to have, and a high one at that. Sure, there were reports of the promoters blaming the ridiculously high prices on the entertainment tax, or an advance of the band’s talent fee. But at this point, it really doesn’t matter because diehard fans are ultimately the victims here. Not everyone can afford to just book a weekend trip to Singapore on a whim.

There used to be a time when going to a concert was a small luxury that we could afford if we wanted to spoil ourselves after a stressful stretch at work or school. It was the perfect reward after all the crap we put ourselves through in this dog-eat-dog world. With the prices of concert tickets in Manila today, it feels like the possibility of seeing your favorite acts live is just being dangled in front of you, and then cruelly snatched away because the tickets are too expensive for you to afford.

Promoters realize that we Filipinos will always find a way to pool our resources together and make ends meet. But we’re also beginning to figure out other ways to work around that. The sheer number of Filipinos who flew to Singapore just to watch Coldplay earlier this month are the best example of it. And if this trend doesn’t stop, then bringing the acts to Manila in the first place will be futile.

Ball’s in your court, promoters. Time to get your act together.

Photo by Richard Reyes for the Philippine Daily Inquirer