What to expect from Coldplay as they prepare to rock Abu Dhabi on New Year’s Eve

As Coldplay prepare to rock Abu Dhabi with their Head Full of Dreams tour on New Year’s Eve, we went to the British band’s recent gig in Brisbane to get the low-down on the live experience.

Abu Dhabi bound: Coldplay perform their Head Full of Dreams concert in Brisbane, Australia, this month. Marc Grimwade / Getty Images
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They are probably the biggest band in the world, and will be playing Abu Dhabi on the biggest party night of the year.

Coldplay look set to take the capital by storm at du Arena, Yas Island, on New Year’s Eve. The show is already a sell-out, so if you want to join the festivities you will need to find someone with a spare ticket.

The band’s recent tour of Australia and New Zealand left fans beaming as they basked in a feel-good afterglow, so based on what we saw at their show in Brisbane this month, here is what fans can look forward when they perform on Saturday night.

The production

As heirs apparent to U2 as the world’s foremost stadium band, you can rely on the British musicians to put on a stunning show.

Their Head Full of Dreams tour can be summed up in one word: technicolour. From illuminated stage floors and colour-changing LED "Xylobands" worn by every audience member, to cannon shooting rainbow confetti, in addition to the standard giant video screens, it is a dazzling spectacle of sight and sound.

To overcome the problem of distance between the band and most of the audience at a stadium concert, Coldplay perform on multiple stages throughout the venue.

The main one, stage A, is connected to a central podium, stage B, by walkway. On a third, even smaller stage, the band performs stripped-down versions of songs later in the show.

It is all very reminiscent of U2 in their ZooTV/Popmart era, and proof positive the stadium-show format is alive and kicking for a new generation.

The performance

“This is gonna be the best night of our lives and we’re gonna give it all we’ve got, and all we ask is that you do the same,” co-founder and lead singer Chris Martin tells the Brisbane audience at the start of the show.

Far from showing signs of fatigue after 70-plus shows in their world tour, Coldplay seem to be just warming up.

Martin works up a sweat bounding between stages A and B for the upbeat tunes, lies flat on his back for the emotive intro to Fix You, and bounces in his seat as he pounds the keyboards on Clocks. Jonny Buckland is a virtuoso on guitar, while bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion anchor the proceedings.

Martin is the first to admit Coldplay aren’t “cool”, thanking another Australian audience for the grief they get as fans of the band .

“We’re gonna try to make it worth the effort,” he said.

The songs

As the title suggests, the Head Full of Dreams tour is in support of their latest album.

The show begins with its title track and ends with closing track Up&Up (accompanied by its surrealist music video). Most of the songs from the album are performed – including latest single Everglow, in newly stripped-back form – along with a selection of greatest hits and other tunes.

Coldplay have even taken requests, as a result of which they recently played rarities such as Us Against the World and Swallowed in the Sea.

Other highlights include Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, Clocks, Viva La Vida and their breakthrough 2000 hit, Yellow (cue Xylobands glowing that colour).

The merchandise

The merchandise stands have the usual array of tour goodies, including CDs, mugs, T-shirts, caps, and the usual lavish tour programme.

But that is not the only place to snag a souvenir. Concert goers will also be issued a “Love” button to pin on their chest and the aforementioned Xyloband as they arrive, so that they can be part of the performance.

Organisers encourage fans to recycle the Xylobands in the bins provided after the show – but many are inevitably end up in fans’ memorabilia collections (or on eBay).

Look out for

If there are any big stars in town for the New Year celebrations, they might get hauled up on stage with the guys. Coldplay were recently joined onstage by Crowded House frontman Neil Finn in Auckland and cricketer Shane Warne in Melbourne.

Drone or “spidercam” footage will allow the band to be seen on the big screen no matter which part of du Arena they are in.

Martin also comments on what a terrible year it has been for the music industry, losing such luminaries as David Bowie and Prince, before a cover of Bowie's Heroes. We should expect a similar mention at Yas of George Michael who died Christmas Day

Look out, too, for giant multi-coloured balloons that float down on to the crowd at key moments, and the coloured confetti that drifts like snow.

The show reaches its zenith with the goosebump-inducing Amazing Day, which begins with the band on separate stages before they reunite to the uplifting strains of Buckland's guitar.

Why you should go

This year has an annus horribilis feel to it, from wars and racial unrest to the loss of so many music legends. Coldplay’s optimistic pop-rock is the perfect antidote, helping us to put the bad times behind us and focus on a brighter year ahead.

The L-word on that button you receive when you arrive, and on the flag Martin drapes on the stage at the end of the show, sums up the sentiment.

“How many people are here together, celebrating, singing together and getting on just great and not really hating on anybody?” Martin said recently. “That’s the kind of world we like to live in.”