Nobody Said Singapore’s Coldplay FOMO Was Easy
Top image: Stevie Rae Gibbs via Atlantic Records.

It’s not uncommon for music acts to attract record-smashing crowds over sold-out back-to-back days on regional tours. Just ask the hordes of local BLINKs, or the BTS stans who recently flocked to Singapore Indoor Stadium over three days for SUGA.

But to have a band like Coldplay spend more than a week here, playing a total of six consecutive shows, is simply unheard of.

In comparison, even some mega pop stars have drawn boundaries. Taylor Swift just locked in three concert dates at the National Stadium, and they’re her only dates in Southeast Asia. Malaysians are tweeting cheeky dating profiles in the hopes of landing a Singaporean with a UOB card: the golden pass to early ticket access.

After selling out all dates in mere days, it’s safe to say: in 2023, Singapore has been hit with Coldplay-mania.

Hot for Coldplay

The last time Coldplay was in town, they sold out the 55,000-strong National Stadium over two back-to-back nights. Before that, in 2009, they packed the Indoor Stadium–choruses of the wordless ‘Viva La Vida’ chant echoing from the thousands in attendance as they exited the halls.

It’s a modest achievement compared to what’s transpired since then.

The lights and sounds, the theatrics and the communal festivities—it’s enough to hit the regular Singaporean with the notion that a Coldplay concert doesn’t just promise live music.

It promises divine spectacle. Austine Tuazon, 29, feels it’s “an out-of-body experience”. By attending one, he states, “You’re taken out of this world and [into] another.”

Their musical performance–disciplined and timed to perfection–aside, the British four-piece work with several creative flourishes: bursts of confetti, life-sized balloons, a myriad of coloured lasers, and a dynamic stage design. All these helps add to an immersion the band has claimed as a calling card.

“I saw a video of the butterfly confetti they released in their ‘Viva La Vida’ tour for ‘Lovers in Japan’ way back in 2010,” says Nic Loh, 31. “That’s when I knew I had to see them at least once. It’s magical.”

The spectacle can also be made intimate—each concertgoer is given an LED-woven wristband (a Xyloband) that synchronizes to the rhythm or theme of the song being performed. A simple example: During Coldplay’s fan-favourite ‘Yellow’, the wristbands flash a vivid… yellow.

Image: Robert Mallows via Atlantic Records.

This synchronised harmony is clever in its ability to make the largest stadium feel like a campfire. During their last visit in 2017, the band’s merch stand offered a tour book for sale.

I still have it. Its leading quote by Chris Martin sums it all up: “The wristbands feel like another band member now. Or another 50,000 band members.”

“I want to feel the atmosphere I’ve been seeing online, like how the stadium lights up with the wristbands,” says Alif Jani, one of several Coldplay fans I talked to.

FOMO And All His Friends

Judging from their last two showings here, it’s easy to say that Coldplay has become the de-facto spectacle band. With all the clamour surrounding them this past week, the hype is real.

There are plenty of reasons why one would not want to miss out on all this, even if they’re not the biggest of fans.

Take, for example, Suresh Singh, who admits only recalling ‘Viva La Vida’ and a few older songs. Yet, he bought tickets. “It’s Coldplay,” he states emphatically.

Mark Leong, 31, owes it to curiosity after the lockdown. “What better concert to attend to celebrate my first one since COVID shut the world down?” he remarks.

Scrolling through Instagram, all anyone saw were endless stories of pages of screens with Ticketmaster’s virtual queue waiting room. Friends you least expect to listen to Coldplay were part of this bizarre phenomenon. Everyone has their own reason for going—fan or not.

“I’ve been a fan for a long time and kept missing their shows due to timings,” says Jolene Leong, 30. “This is the first one that I’m actually in Singapore to attend it.”

One couple remembers watching Coldplay as their first concert together back in 2017. Come next year, this will be the first one they’ll be watching as a married couple.

The hype surrounding their upcoming shows has hit some with crushing waves of FOMO (fear of missing out)–or, the fear of having FOMO.

Nikki Palaroan admits to not being a die-hard fan. Yet, she mentions that “a bit of FOMO” led her to queue for tickets. “If I don’t go, we’ll be seeing it on Instagram literally for a whole week next year,” says Nikki, 27.

“It’s already been all over my TikTok the past few days.”

Image: Stevie Rae Gibbs via Atlantic Records.

The clamouring of Coldplay tickets hit social media hard. On TikTok–this week, especially–Coldplay-tok arrived on Singaporean user’s feeds with alluring footage from Coldplay’s ongoing Music of the Spheres World Tour.

Six Dates for Four Brits

On the flip side, the apparent fanfare has dampened any excitement for some fans.

Thomas, 40, who caught the band when they debuted here in 2001–a rare double bill with British rock band Travis–shared that the upcoming mammoth six-show schedule discouraged him from going.

“It’s different when they just played one or two shows here previously. Now with six, it almost feels like the experience is downplayed, and I feel it’s lost its charm.”

The dreadful queuing experience has also deterred plenty, with one fan saying, “It’s not worth it” after seeing dispatches from the ticket-buying frontlines on Instagram.

The virtual queue saw numbers close to a million waiting for their turn to purchase. Horror stories on Instagram and TikTok saw people reportedly ending up on blank pages after waiting their turn, only needing to re-join the queue again.

Physical queues, on the other hand, saw snaking lines outside post offices. “You won’t get kicked out of the queue unless the tickets are sold out. We managed to get a few, but the catch was that all eight tickets would be seated separately,” says Marie, who braved the queues once the post office opened.

Amongst the sea of worry, there were plenty of success stories with die-hard fans getting tickets to each of the band’s shows in the region.

Others from neighbouring countries applauded the seamless ticketing experience, with those from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines wishing for the same experience back home.

That stirs up the question—have concert-goers in Singapore been taking this convenience for granted?

Sing-Alongs with SingPass

The controversial decision to add a fifth and sixth show at the eleventh hour was welcomed with mixed fare.

Some are happy there are more chances to attend, while happy campers with tickets were disgruntled at the decision. Bafflingly, they argue that organisers should have prioritised it for locals.

One netizen went as far as to suggest that buying a ticket should warrant confirmation via SingPass–all to ensure Singaporeans have first priority for tickets over our regional neighbours.

Image: Twitter screengrab

Yet, most talk from our neighbours has been nothing but praise for the concert experience here in Singapore.

A Malaysian Twitter user quashed an ongoing debate on how “unfair it is that Singapore has six shows”, finding the six-show decision to be justified.

Putting things into perspective, Coldplay heads to Jakarta, Taiwan, and Kuala Lumpur in November this year, playing one night each. After which, they play Manila for two nights before Singapore’s six-night run.

Take that ramped-up decision of six consecutive shows, throw in our national tendency to be kiasu, and it seemed foretold as a recipe for disaster.

We’ve been known to have a habit of queuing up for almost anything, and plenty would surely have found it hard to resist joining the (virtual) queue for tickets.

Kyle admittedly said he bought a total of five tickets because he was afraid it would sell out. This conversation only ends up with one thing: Scalpers, the inevitable menace.

Cat 1 tickets that were retailing at S$298 are now being sold in bulk on Carousell five times their price at S$1500 a pop. One particular seller claims to sell an entire row for a startling S$300,000.

Those without tickets are only left to dream–with the small hope that Coldplay will only play God onstage and not, you know, rest on the seventh day.

National Day of ‘Play

One cannot hide away from the astounding feat and phenomenon that just happened: A band will be playing six consecutive nights to crowds totalling 300,000 strong.

A friend likened the six-peat run to that of the National Day Parade (and all its rehearsals). One can only wonder if that very intense response to the Coldplay shows speak to this great desire for large-scale, almost communal, events where the shared experience actually unites a nation.

Whatever the reason—be it genuine fanfare for Coldplay (or the hype surrounding their shows), the FOMO of not getting tickets, the kiasu-ness of getting plenty more in advance, or just simply the curiosity of attending a first post-pandemic concert—Coldplay mania is real in Singapore. Somehow, someway, you were part of it.

It’s a phenomenon our tiny little island will have once in a while–McDonald’s Hello Kitty plushies, H&M’s Kenzo collaboration, Omega x Swatch watches. And ever since the pandemic, maybe something just like this was what we needed to feel that collective spirit again without the fear of spreading COVID.

With a certain artist by the name of Taylor Swift set to release tickets for her Eras concerts very soon, we can do little but brace ourselves for yet another wave.

And once more, the nation collectively holds its breath to witness the blood, sweat, and tears that will be shared and spared–whether from Swifties themselves, the Swift adjacent, or the regular Singaporean bystander.

Ticketmaster, if you’re reading this, good luck.

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