There was a lot of excitement for me leading up to Coldplay’s release of their latest record Ghost Stories. The album was teased with a rich, highly cinematic video for Midnight directed by Mary Wigmore on February 25, 2014. Despite being one of the slowest building songs in memory, barely increasing much in tempo it is more a big long intensifying crescendo. Yet, it remains one of my favorites from the record, often getting stuck in my head. It’s also no surprise, given that description of the song’s sound, that it was constructed around an ambient track originally produced in 2003 by regular Coldplay collaborator Jon Hopkins, called Amphora. That said, in the Live DVD/CD version of the album, Midnight arrives in its most upbeat rendition ever with the clapping crowd giving the song a lighter, faster feel, which is lovely.
The live DVD/CD release hit shelves just in time for the holidays on November 24, 2014 and follows a series of six shows the band did worldwide from April to July 2014 to promote the release of the record. That was the tour folks! The audio CD pulls from all six of them, and while the various tracks are taken from different performances it plays through seamlessly; the live DVD references none of them. Instead the DVD was shot in March 2014, months before the record was ever released, making it very interesting for any Coldplay fan.
When the band announced the live release they explained the performance was shot in a custom-built amphitheatre at Sony Studios in LA. They called the production sets “groundbreaking” and boasted about 360-degree visuals, as well as overhead imagery – Chris Martin called the screens “a dream come true” for them, adding that the show was “basically [their] original vision for the Ghost Stories album.”
Upon receiving a review copy of the release, the easiest thing to do first was pop the audio CD in the car. I was surprised, as mentioned earlier, at how some of the sleepier songs on the album translated to the live setting. Despite already liking Ink, Speed of Sound, and Magic the most in the studio recordings, other songs were elevated, for me, through the live recordings. I really enjoy Another’s Arms as well, but on a nine track album you can’t get carried away with calling out too many favorites.
The package is completed by eight music videos from the Ghost Stories era, including two never-before-seen films for B-sides All Your Friends and Ghost Story plus the exclusive extended director’s cut of the Magic video (with a brand new cameo from Peter Fonda). It’s worth mentioning that the director for the Magic and True Love videos is Jonas Åkerlund who is a juggernaut these days when it comes to music videos. Chris Martin has also come out and said that True Love is his favourite song that the band has ever penned.
The video for Ink included in this mix is a live performance from the Royal Albert Hall (one of their six aforementioned shows) because the band did something far more innovative for an ‘official’ video when the single was released. They created an interactive animated video in partnership with a firm called Blind that has more than 300 different outcomes and released it online (http://coldplay.com/ink/?eml=2014November27/1975284/6223346&etsubid=37395915).
Knowing how intricate and robust Coldplay can get with their visuals, when I read about a 360-degree video I envisioned something incredible. The sides were impressive and cool enough, but big points for the overhead screen, which lent itself incredibly well to the overall album packaging delivery, in aesthetic terms.
The medieval toned artwork is reminiscent of a congregation of constellations that melange together to form a pair of wings. This appears on both the main studio album and the latest live DVD/CD release, but with the deep blue sky changing to white for the latter. The imagery was originally an etching by a Czech artist living in the UK named Mila Fürstová, who was approached by the band for a collaborative effort. In fact, there was an exhibition of 25 original etchings and 100 high-quality digital prints of the artwork collection from which the Coldplay pieces came that opened in London on December 4, 2014.
The image style within the wings was referenced and utilized across other Coldplay releases, promotional materials, and in the live shows. Many of the single covers including the ones for Midnight, Magic, and True Love have similar artwork that draw from a motif occurring in the album’s wings piece.
In the live DVD animals swim and move around overhead in a mesmerizing manner, as one example of how the etchings are brought to life using the aforementioned screens. A larger, digital version of the main artwork was available on Coldplay’s website, with the ability to zoom into it getting to a great level of detail. Some of it also appears on Fürstová’s website (http://www.furstova.com/portfolios/coldplay).
Ultimately the Ghost Stories live DVD/CD release reached #2 in Coldplay’s native UK and #98 on US charts. However, in December 2014, Spotify came out to say that the band was the most streamed in the world for the year. And, in terms of solo artists and bands, they still made the top three, behind Ed Sheeran and Eminem.
Some other news that emerged around the live release was that the band is in the midst of working on their seventh studio album which Martin says will be called A Head Full of Dreams. He has also opined that it will be the band’s final album but only time will tell if that will ring true.