Mencap Little Noise Sessions: Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland; Emili Sande; Ben Howard, St John at Hackney Church


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The Independent Culture

For Coldplay fans, this was a rare opportunity. To see one of the biggest bands on the planet (well, half of them), in the tiny surrounds of a church. For fans of the band this is about as good as it gets.

Which makes one wonder then, what made one woman up on the balcony think that it was a good idea to bring a tambourine? Even in the O2 - where Coldplay play two dates next month - it would be rude. But here, where the acts are playing stripped down sets in aid of Mencap, it's an absolute menace.

Chris Martin, to his credit, let's her get away with it during "Viva La Vida", where the audiences' "whoa-oh-oh-ahs" make up most of the noise. But when she starts tapping it during the opening chords of "The Scientist", he's forced to stop and ask her - very politely - to stop - "We've been playing it for ten years without a tambourine. I promise on the next song it's a tambourine frenzy," he laughs. It's a bizarre few minutes - but Martin does his best to soften the embrassment by ad-libbing a coda that pays tribute to the instrument.

The rest of the set 10-song set, played just on neon-splattered piano and guitar, is charmingly shambolic for a band of Coldplay's stadium pedigree. Without a rhythm section, Buckland and Martin contrive to muck up "Yellow", a song that they must have played at every gig they've ever played. There are a few stop-start moments elsewhere (Martin gets the key for the chorus to "Clocks" wrong), but it gives a feeling of uniqueness to the show that their festival and arena sets don't offer. 

You can't say the same for the rest of the bill; Devonian folky Ben Howard is pleasant but has the presence of park bench; while Emili Sandé - fresh from a number one single with Professor Green simply screams "fourth place in The X Factor". Even the vicar looks bored.

There's a lot to like and dislike about Coldplay, but dressed in all-black, Martin is still pleasingly humble, he even refers to his own band as "the shit Radiohead" at one point. Having your gig sabotaged by a rogue percussionist probably helps keep one's ego in check. But this is a sweet evening though, at no point more than when Martin shuffles his mic stand over next to Buckland's so the two can play "Shiver" from 2000's Parachutes. All it needed was a bit of tambourine...