As news about Coldplay’s November gig reaches feverish pitch, bands open up about the hardest part of acing tribute concerts and covers
'Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you...’
As the last strains of Fix You fade, the audience gets on its feet and starts cheering. The applause continues, increasing in intensity, when the band strikes up the next song, A Sky Full of Stars. Soon, everyone is singing along, filling the space with mismatched harmonies and phone flashlights.
Best Kept Secret’s tribute concert. Pic Courtesy/ Ravi Jain
This experience might not come anywhere close to what will happen if British Alternative Rock band Coldplay were to perform in the city. A few city bands, however, get to experience some of the madness when they pull off tribute concerts or cover gigs. In May, for instance, when a cappella group, Penn Masala performed in Mumbai, its mashup of Fix You with Ishq Bina had the audience on its feet, singing itself hoarse.
Coldplay performs during its A Head Full of Dreams tour in New Jersey this July. Pic/Getty Images
“The band has a tremendous following in the country. You are guaranteed a full house if you are playing a tribute concert where the audience sings along and requests favourites. It is fantastic,” says Agnelo Fernandes, 39, a music producer and member of the band Nine Lives.
Nine Lives regularly performs Coldplay’s songs at their concerts
There is no denying that Coldplay’s songs are crowd-pleasers. “Their music attracts crowds and adds an incredible vibe to a performance,” says Kevin Sequeira, 24, singer with Pop Rock band Kairos. The band performed their first Coldplay tribute concert, what they consider to be a childhood dream, this week at Light House Café in Khar, where they played Yellow, Fix You, Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, Hymn for a Weekend.
Nine Lives has done one tribute concert and regularly performs covers of Coldplay's songs at their other gigs. “Their songs have good melody, lyrics and sound production,” says Fernandes. Another reason for their popularity he says is to lead singer Chris Martin’s voice. “He isn’t the greatest singer but his voice is earthy and raw.”
The Reuel Benedict Collective, a Pop Rock and Acoustic band, did its first Coldplay tribute gig at blueFROG in 2014. It was the complete Coldplay experience with live visuals and free merchandise. They even dressed up like members of the band and replicated the set list. Lead singer Reuel Benedict, 26, who performs solo, has done many covers of Coldplay’s songs. “They play feel-good and relatable music. Such honest music will find fans,” he believes.
That easy sound
A few Indian bands are known for being Coldplay tribute bands or for their covers. Delhi has The Politik, which calls itself the Coldplay tribute band, and cover band CopyCats.
Bengaluru has the four-year-old Pop Rock band Best Kept Secret whose fans call them ‘The Coldplay of India’. “We only do Coldplay tributes; we’ve done two gigs in Mumbai, and got great reviews for it. Whenever we play, fans tells us we sound a lot like the band, and I, sound like Chris Martin,” says Behram Siganporia, 30, lead singer of the band.
He attributes their popularity to easily accessible music. “Their sound has evolved. Their songs are heard in clubs and not just in pubs and they’re radio friendly,” he adds. Their last tribute concert in November saw a packed venue. “We’re always sold out for these concerts,” Siganporia adds. Fernandes echoes the sentiment, “They are easy to play as a band. If you know the chords and lyrics, you can easily jam to them.”
Sequeira feels that people who don’t understand technical music prefer Coldplay. “Their songs have a lot of colour, which we, as Indians, love,” he adds.
The gold rush
Why do bands, which are keen on setting their own identity, resort to covers? “We do tributes since they pay better than original music. There aren’t too many venues that support original music, and these are the only kind of gigs happening,” feels Benedict. “Many know the songs, and we always get a great response. It is a great showcase for us but I ensure I play a few originals too.”
But, often, it’s a case of too much of good thing.
Best Kept Secret starts every show by telling people not to compare them with Coldplay. “We don’t feel bad about the comparison because it has worked to our advantage. But we would like to be known for our originals too,” says Siganporia. The band takes their inspiration from Coldplay’s songwriting, music and the way they evolved from a pub band to being a stadium band. “We are looking for that same kind of progression. Coldplay’s story is inspiring. It is hard being an Indian band singing in English.”
Kairos adds little experiments to the originals — changing the melodies, adding extra or ambient sounds. “For us, it is about connecting with the crowd so we will perform a few covers but won’t make it a regular event,” says Sequeira.
Fernandes sums it up nicely, “The beauty of their songs is in their simplicity.”
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