Twenty years and seven studio albums after their inception, British band Coldplay have become one of the biggest bands in the world. To celebrate, the group have released a concert film and a two-hour documentary, titled A Head Full of Dreams, which looks over their time together.
The opening half hour feels more like an advert for their widely-criticised seventh album, constantly jumping from 1998, to their most recent world tour performances to show the shift in their fortunes. Thankfully, the documentary settles into a more structured piece, as it shows clips from their early London shows, and the struggles of trying to break America, and record their critically-lauded debut album Parachutes.
As their status rises through career highlight A Rush Of Blood To The Head, the four-piece remain quirky as ever in this behind-the-scenes footage, with Chris Martin practically bouncing off the walls in enthusiasm – a stark contrast to some of their biggest (and saddest) songs The Scientist or Fix You.
But it isn’t all smiles, as 2005’s X& Y shows a tumultuous time, with manager Phil Harvey leaving the band, getting criticised by the New York Times, and Chris Martin getting visibly frustrated on their tour, exclaiming “Only 23 more shows until the end of Coldplay!”
Up to this point, it’s a compelling and engaging story that feels like we’re finally getting to see their full personalities, with a wide range of emotion.
But from this point on, it feels like filmmaker Mat Whitecross glosses over the next few albums. 2008’s Viva La Vida was Coldplay’s most daring, experimental album, but there was very little shown here compared to the earlier albums. You might even be forgiven in forgetting that the band even released 2011’s Mylo Xyloto, with only the most brief of clips as they perform Charlie Brown live. Similarly, 2014’s Ghost Stories feels frustratingly short, even if it does shine a light on Martin’s depression from his uncoupling from wife Gwyneth Paltrow during this period.
It jumps back to their energetic stadium shows, and reminding us of the latest songs from their most recent album, A Head Full Of Dreams, alongside studio clips of Beyonce recording vocals in Martin’s daughter’s bedroom on Hymn For The Weekend, and children being bribed with pizza to sing backing vocals. For a band as huge as this, they still manage to create a homely warmth in the studio, and in the biggest of arenas.
What’s most amazing here is seeing how grounded Coldplay have remained, despite the whirlwind ride of becoming one of the most famous acts in the world, and also how their songs are really lifted when thousands of fans are belting out Yellow or Something Just Like This at the top of their lungs.
Even though some sections feel criminally short at the expense of their 2015 album, this is still a fascinating documentary that even the most casual fan will enjoy.
Edited by Nicole Moraleda