We head to the final gig of the Coldplay four night stand at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium to witness first hand the Pixmob technology and find out more about their work in creating the ultimate in audience engagement.
Some of us are old enough to remember the practice of holding a lighter (or a match) in the air to create a ‘moment’ in gigs past. Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson immortalised the practice with the “let me see those lighters out there Los Angeles ” during Revelations from the Live After Death album.
These days, when even the mobile phone light is pretty standard/old hat, the integration is a bit more hi-spec and hi-tech and certainly immersive. The Canadian company Pixmob is the leading light with their philosophy to “connect crowds, reinvent rituals.” They’ve worked with Coldplay for some time now and over several tours but also have vast experience across a number of events in different fields.
From Gucci fashion shows to sports events and high profile Rock tours, their creativity with lighting and audience engagement has grown to an extent where an arena or stadium awash with glittering lights is the new industry standard. From Jubilee celebrations, NBA All Stars and Imagine Dragons to the Dubai Expo and Formula 1 in Saudi has seen Pixmob technology in operation to enhance large (and smaller) scale events and create an authentic audience involvement. As they themselves say – why go to the show when you can be part of the magic? Don’t be too shocked if their work features in the Paris Olympics of 2024.
Key factors are sustainability, engagement and reducing environmental impact, sharing in much the same way the Coldplay’s touring aims. There’s also a commitment to recycling and refurbishing and the use of compostable materials. 2020’s Super Bowl saw the first sustainable wristbands made with no new plastic while the current Coldplay tour pulls no punches with its same page commitment to regenerating energy and touring ethically on a large scale.
A Coldplay show is always about involving the crowd, performing on the main stage, the walkway to the B stage and then walking through the crowd for a couple of songs on the C stage (accompanied on show #4 on a huge Sit Down by Tim Booth from Manchester’s James). Even those at the back of the stadium get their own little advantage point, while even in the outreaches at the top of the stands, the chance to shake your wristband and be part of the waves od light brings everyone into the expereince. Throwing out massive balloons from almost the kick-off while the wristband lights get to work pulsing away, the arms are almost permanently aloft as a range of effects complement the music and have eyes drawn in all directions.
It’s no wonder they use the ET theme at the start of the show – the Coldplay/Pixmob experience conjures up a similar experience to a journey into Spielberg cinematic magic.
At one stage, we’re encouraged by drummer Will Champion via Chris Martin that we should all pocket our phones for a moment and appreciate the togetherness for once as A Sky Full Of Stars sees the Etihad bowl flickering blue and white – just like the song. One of several cleverly planned and sequenced effects. Yellow does what it says on the tin as the whole arena adopts a sepia hue and Human Heart sees the upper tiers displaying red hearts while the stobe effects accompany the white lighting and fuzzed up rock of People Of The Pride.
Gone are the days of a simple on and off as the 7 LEDs strapped around everyone’s wrists change colour and become orchestrated to create a wave effect across the whole stadium for the climax of Fix You. One of many Coldplay songs made for a stadium and deserving of the stadium-sized Pixmob effect.
Our thanks to Audrey Hoole at Pixmob and media Rep Mark Cunningham for the invite and hospitality.