Jonny Buckland: Coldplay likes to make people feel good

Guitarist Jonny Buckland of Coldplay can't wait to perform in Abu Dhabi on New Year's Eve.

Jonny Buckland of Coldplay. Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images / AFP
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It's not only the UAE that remembers Coldplay's 2009 performance at the Emirates Palace hotel.

The guitarist Jonny Buckland says the group still holds vivid memories of the rain-soaked show, which was punctuated by a thunderstorm that short-circuited some of the stage lights.

While the band took it all in good spirit - they even broke into impromptu renditions of Singing in the Rain and Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head - Buckland says his onstage grin masked some serious concerns.

"I remember the Abu Dhabi show very strongly," he remarks drily. "It was scarily rainy and there was lightning. I could feel the metal in my belt pack - on stage you wear one - and I could feel it rumbling as the static was going off it."

Despite the unexpected fireworks from above the stage, Buckland describes the group's two-day stay in Abu Dhabi as "a wonderful time", in which they spent their downtime sampling the opulence of the Emirates Palace hotel.

"It was just simply unbelievable. I never stayed anywhere like that and probably never will again," he says. "It made Buckingham Palace look like a two-bed semi."

While their last UAE show was at the tail end of their wildly successful Viva la Vida world tour, this time they return at the beginning of a new global jaunt performing songs from their number one-selling fifth album, Mylo Xyloto.

With a bunch of American and European shows under its belt, Buckland says the band is satisfied with the performances thus far - although there is always room to fine-tune certain parts.

"We are always tweaking the show, even today we're discussing what the songs will look like," he says. "But of course, this time the songs are very different, there are more new ones but there are also some old ones that we're going back to."

Buckland is speaking from Belgium during the first leg of their European tour, which saw them revive the old Coldplay classics Shiver and Daylight (from the albums Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head respectively) among a healthy smattering from Mylo Xyloto.

The group also retained the two-stage set up from its previous tour, with a small "B Stage" placed deep in the auditorium where the group would play a handful of songs for the benefit of those sitting in the back-rows.

Buckland says that while each tour retains its own vibe, the deeper changes had been among the band's members, who must now juggle their careers with raising families.

"As we go along, we enjoy ourselves even more. The older you get, you realise how lucky you are," he says. "We all have kids now, so everything is more arranged … It's not the same as back when we were 22, when we would be on a tour bus for four months."

While the shows are now bigger and the group is travelling and staying in more plush surroundings, Buckland is proud the group has never lost the euphoric element of their live shows. Making people happy is something Coldplay takes seriously, he says.

"We want people to go away from our gigs feeling good. Because sometimes it's quite an effort coming to a show with all that traffic and queuing up, we just want people to feel like it's worth it."

The Abu Dhabi show also marks the second time Coldplay is performing on New Year's Eve after closing off 2010 in Las Vegas.

Buckland hints that a Coldplay New Year's Eve show could become a regular feature, with the setlist reflecting the celebratory nature of the evening.

With Coldplay set for a fully fledged American and European tour in April, Buckland says he will be going straight back to the UK to spend time with his family, as opposed to prolonging his visit to Abu Dhabi.

However, he wouldn't discount the possibility of frontman Chris Martin's spending some time in the capital, given his love of the beach and watersports.

"Chris loves surfing but I am a bit of landlubber myself," he says. "Actually, to be honest, the ocean kind of terrifies me."

* Saeed Saeed