Thanks to everyone's votes and support, this past Saturday I was able to take a big step forward and open for Coldplay at the XL Center in my home state of Connecticut. The experience was absolutely overwhelming, and more than I ever could have hoped for. In the spirit of Coldplay and their roadies, I've decided to have my roadie Brian share the experience through his own words. A video of backstage, show, and the entire experience is coming very soon. Enjoy! Here are some pictures from the day...
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Roadie 1 - Blog 1
It's been about 5 days since the Coldplay show and things are just about beginning to settle in. The reviews are in– literally–and very much to our surprise, Amanda has received a lot of mention and praise in reviews of the show, as well as in Coldplay's official blog. Here are some things people are saying:
'The night featured two opening acts, hip-hop, electronica soul collective Santogold and radio station contest winner Amanda Kaletsky. The latter was especially well received by the crowd during a five-song outing sparked by her finale "Please Forgive Me."' - MassLive.com
'In the hour I spend in Production today, a constant stream of crew saying, "Have you seen the opening act? She's amazing". Now all of the local opening acts have been good, but it's unusual to get such unanimous glowing praise from roadies. I understand her name was Amanda Kaletsky. Given that roadies are notoriously tough to impress, I guess I'd better check her out. Maybe you should too...' -Coldplay.com Roadie #42 Blog 19
Now I'm not going to say that I'm surprised, but it is incredibly rewarding to see that Amanda's hard work is paying off and her talent was recognized on such a wide scale. She's played great shows, bad shows (more of the former), and a lot of shows in between. It's one thing to play the biggest show of your life, but it can just as easily end there– I think this was also the biggest start of her career.
I took video of everything, so we will be posting that by the end of the weekend, so until then, here is a complete recap of last Saturday. The number on my laminate from the show was "042", and as Amanda's official roadie (sometimes she calls me her boyfriend, too) I was inspired to write the experience from my point of view, like Roadie 42 does for Coldplay.
The final band rehearsal was on Saturday morning. The weather was fine until Amanda sang the first verse of her last song 'Please Forgive Me'– 'I'm just waiting for the rain, it's been so long since it came.' At that moment the skies completely unleashed on us, and we took it as a sign– that we should leave extra time to drive to the show. We started to pack up and Amanda stayed back for a few minutes to do an interview with the news crew that had walked into the rehearsal earlier. This was the last of a whirlwind of radio interviews and newscasts that whole week; your life definitely changes when Coldplay chooses you to open for them. A local girl opening for the biggest band in the world is a headline we were amazed to be printed under.
In usual style, and despite the rain, we got to the XL center about 45 minutes early. We drove around the block once or twice– or 5 times until we settled into a spot nearby to kill time. The entire week leading up to the show was nonstop, and in these next 30 minutes of pure waiting the enormity of the situation finally caught up to Amanda. She was sure this was one big practical joke; she was going to walk into the arena to a big 'Surprise!' It was 2:45 and it was time to go in and find out.
We cued up 'Life in Technicolor' and drove into the super secret entrance, parked our car, unloaded the keyboard and our bags of stuff and found our way past the football field of unloaded 18-wheeler tour trucks. We met up with Fin, Coldplay's production manager extraordinaire and all around great guy, who walked us to the 'Local support dressing room.' To the side of our room was an enormous black curtain wall to wall and ceiling to floor– it took a second for us to realize we were directly behind the larger than life stage backdrop.
We quarantined ourselves in the room for 15 minutes and played a game on my iPhone to calm us. Over the next half an hour we were greeted by different members of Coldplay's tour staff, including Jackie (head of security) who handed us credentials and let us know the schedule. Coldplay spared no detail, down to the metallic printing on the laminates. There was also no shortage of genuine and fun people who quickly made us feel welcome and eased the nerves (don't worry, they'll be back later). A bit later a wonderful guy from catering came by with a platter of fresh fruit and enough water, beer, and soda for a small army. Soon enough the rest of the band arrived before Amanda and I could finish it all.
At some point somebody posted an itinerary on our wall (see picture below) with the schedule for the day– 7:30 Amanda Kaletsky performs... 9:15 Coldplay performs. Sound check was a couple hours away.
Over the next hour or so we strolled around backstage, casually pretending to ignore the 'Coldplay dressing room–>this way' signs. We walked out into the completely empty arena– a sight on its own– and got the first glimpse of the stage as they were testing the lights.
Before we knew it we were loading our equipment onto the stage up a metal ramp that split the big black curtain in half. Amanda was able to run straight through 'Little Things' and 'Used.' I'll never forget the first BOOM of the kick drum in an empty arena– it was somewhere between thunder and God speaking to you. When sound check was over, Amanda went to the tip of the stage to get one last look out before the seats filled. I'm pretty sure by now Amanda was assured this wasn't a practical joke. Check out some pictures from the soundcheck:
After all the excitement of backstage and the sound check, we realized that the biggest part– the actual performance– was yet to come. Only thing left to do before was eat– off to catering we went. Tofu Pad Thai, meat lasagna, jerk chicken, rice and peas (the peas were definitely beans, is this an English thing?)– I couldn't decide, so had what the person in front of me was having. Everyone else got the Pad Thai, which is my only regret of the night. Amanda, with the appetite anybody would have before opening up for Coldplay, had a bowl of berries. Just as we said: "If this is what we're having– imagine what Coldplay eats" Will and Jonny walk up and grab a bite and sat a few tables down– probably with Pad Thai.
Franksy, the tour manager, stopped by our room a few minutes before show time to see how we were doing. Just incase somebody stopped him, one of his 5 laminates flipped over to read 'YES I REALLY AM THE TOUR MANAGER AND CAN GO WHEREVER I WANT.' (The security guard outside our room had a 8x10 printout of Coldplay's Viva promo shot saying, "THIS IS COLDPLAY. THEY CAN GO WHEREVER THEY WANT."). Five minutes later, and almost 5 hours after we got there, it was time for the show.
The house lights shut off suddenly, everyone in the arena started to scream. The band walked out and they continued to cheer, then when they realized it wasn't Coldplay they actually continued to cheer some more. Amanda walked on last, sat down at the keyboard, and a few seconds later Ben bowed the first notes of "Little Things."
Tim Sway, the bassist, comfortingly looked Amanda in the eyes as he plucked the first few notes– Amanda let out a huge smile and I knew she was ready to rock it. The crowd was astoundingly attentive, and let out a few whistles when Amanda crooned the first verse after the violin intro. The end of the first song is always The Hardest Part– how is the audience going to respond, did we choose the right song, did we lose them? Nope. The crowd let out a roar and she ripped straight into her next song "Used"– the bridge where the band drops out just sparkled in the stadium. After the song she took a few seconds to thank the audience.
Then came "Always"– this is one of my favorite new songs and it was great to see how receptive the audience was to it with just her on piano and Ben on violin; there is something magical about performing an acoustic song in such a huge space. Amanda had considered doing the entire set solo, but I'm glad she decided to bring on the band– it made the couple solo songs even more special to the audience. After the quiet "Always", Colin the drummer fired up into a pounding version of "Everything Lies" that ended in an audience clap along. When that was over the audience's cheer continued to get louder like it had from each song to the next. She thanked Coldplay, the radio station (96.5TIC) for sponsoring the contest, and the audience for listening.
She closed out her set with "Please Forgive Me", the song that she entered the contest, and ultimately won with. The band played on this one with the perfect amount of restraint, this was the first time live that she didn't play it solo as Jonny (guitarist) lobbied the entire week to play the guitar lines from the recording. As she finished her last line "So I will say goodnight, but not goodbye" the audience started applause that slowly swelled towards the end of the piano line, and Amanda cracked a smile that was somewhere between relief and euphoria. The crowd applauded her off the stage and then some, with a few standing ovations spattered along the crowd that I could see when the house lights eventually came back on.
As I put down the camera and moved through the crowd to return backstage, there was a certain feeling in the air from the audience. People were almost frozen in place, like they were waiting for her to come back and do more. We were given 20-25 minutes and she clocked in at about 19– but it felt just right, and accomplished what we set out for– a short, sweet set that would leave the audience wanting more.
I ran back to the dressing room to see Amanda, and the band had found the 4 bottles of champagne that Coldplay left for them during the set. Attached was a handwritten note from the guys themselves, it read…
Amanda had a little bit of trouble popping the champagne, and to prevent injuring anybody she wisely handed it over to Jonny to start the festivities. And then a few "Mazel Tov"'s later it was all over.
Oh, and by the way, we still had a Coldplay concert to go to! A couple months ago, before we knew about this contest, I was lucky enough to win tickets to Coldplay's free show at MSG in New York. Amanda and I were literally in the last 3 rows in the entire stadium, but the show absolutely blew our minds. Little did we know how things would change in just a couple months' time. We sat along the side of the stage with Colin and his wife (everyone-in-the-band's-significant-other was a huge Coldplay fan, so it was twice the fun for everybody). I don' t know for sure, but I think the guy in the headset next to us was Roadie 42. If you're reading this, 42, let me know.
During one of their last songs, Chris came over to the side of the stage we were standing on. He gazed around in the millionths of a second in-between the words of the song, we caught his eye, and I'm pretty sure he gave Amanda a nod.
I don't have to tell you that they played the roof off the place. Even having seen the behind the scenes of a Coldplay concert, nothing can take away the magic of their show. Amanda grabbed a couple confetti butterflies and stuffed them into my back pocket–just one token of what was an incredible experience and hopefully, the first of many.