When picking support acts for their shows, Coldplay has always gone a little bit into left field. Their Viva La Vida tour had 34 in total, stretching from Datarock to The Flaming Lips, and their last shows at Wembley Stadium in 2009 were prefaced by Girls Aloud and Jay-Z waltzing around as if he hadn’t already done enough damage with ‘Lost+.’ Still, there’s a consistency throughout many of the picks: delightful pop. With the band moving further towards that in their own music, as discussed in our review of their performance, they chose to keep things simple for A Head Full Of Dreams, welcoming 19-year-old Canadian pop/R&B singer Alessia Cara and soulful Londoner Lianne La Havas to the tour for the majority of its shows across Europe and the Americas.
Whilst the devoted fans waited for an hour and a half before the first signs of live music, gentle atmospheric sounds echoing everything from Viva La Vida producer Brian Eno to whales having their own fun in lieu of their inability to get into the pre-sale on time. Cara snapped this with a confident waltz belying her years, beginning her first London performance since The Edge attended her March show at the 1,500-capacity Electric Brixton with the throbbing ‘I’m Yours.’ With an outline of her beanied self both as a backdrop and adorning the left breast of her t-shirt, Cara interspersed introverted sentiments from Know-It-All – current single ‘Wild Things’ revolves around the feeling that “the cool kids aren’t cool to me,” while her debut single ‘Here,’ which closed the half-hour set, is a frantic number about feeling awkward at a party she didn’t want to go to – with motivational monologues on beauty standards and heartbreak that overflowed with optimism and teenage naïvete. (Disclaimer: Cara is 135 days older than I am.)
Cara’s career is owed to YouTube, a platform she has used for half a decade to pedal acoustic covers with her superb voice and, more recently, delightful tour vlogs featuring an excellent pre-show ritual. Two videos from July 2012 see her tackle the music of Lianne La Havas, who has also counted the likes of Prince and Stevie Wonder as admirers. She too took to the stage with a captivating presence, albeit heavily aided by her visceral roar of “HELLO WEMBLEY.”
Beginning with Is Your Love Big Enough?’s dreamy ‘Au Cinéma,’ La Havas’ minimal band and ever-changing cast of resplendent guitars spent their 45 minutes of spotlight weaving gorgeous soul with inflexions of R&B both contemporary and classic, back when a guttural bluesy drive was actually part of the expected package. Continuing through material from 2015’s hailed Blood and a minimal cover of Aretha Franklin’s ‘I Say A Little Prayer,’ she continued to charm and impress in equal measure. By the time she reached ‘Grow,’ which sounded just as comfortable on the Wembley stage as it did in her front room with an audience of Adam Buxton, and ‘Midnight’ from that latest LP to close, she had been instantiating clapping sessions and recruited a crowd that may have barely known her name beforehand as a powerful backing choir. As a warm-up for the vivid extravaganza that was to follow, it could hardly have been more enchanting.