I Went to Coldplay’s Chicago Concert Last Night. Virtually, Anyway.

Coldplay performed a sold out show at Soldier Field in Chicago last night and from my spot about four feet behind drummer Will Champion, it was pretty good.

That’s right. My vantage point was on the stage behind Will’s right elbow. I also saw the gig sitting in front of guitarist Jonny Buckland’s effects board. After that, I moved to a spot to the left of bass player Guy Berryman. The rest of the time, I just sort of followed Chris Martin up and down the long catwalk or floated above the stage.

This was my first experience watching a concert in virtual reality. Using some goggles and a phone provided by Samsung, I was able to jack into the Chicago concert while sitting comfortably propped up on my bed. The dogs must have thought I was ridiculous with the VR contraption on my head–my wife certainly laughed at me–but I didn’t really notice because I was immersed in the whole experience.

Setup was reasonably easy. First, I connected a Galaxy S7 to my home wifi network and downloaded the Samsung VR software. Once that was done, I clipped the phone into the headgear (powered by Oculus, by the way), which immediately booted up and presented me some menu screens floating in front of my eyes. Using a laser pointed locked to my head movements, I chose the menu items I wanted to access by tapping the side of the goggles. Audio was delivered through the phone to a small speaker on the goggles, although I could have plugged in a set of headphones for better sound.

The visuals were hardly HD– the resolution wasn’t even standard def, so even though I was sitting at Jonny Buckland’s feet, I couldn’t read the setlist that was printed out in front of him–but it was enough to give me a taste of what the future of VR concerts could be. I was able to swivel my head and body along a 360 horizontal axis as well as being able to look up to the sky and down to the ground. (I spent some time watching Will Champion’s drum roadie, who was sitting in a pit to Will’s right. Before the show, I also watched a couple in the audience who seemed to be having an argument. Creepy, I know. Still, this is all in the name of technology, right?) Camera angles switched just like they would if you were watching the show on TV, except that you could adjust yourself along X, Y and Z axes.

Was it cool? Definitely. There’s still a long way to go when it comes to improving the video experience (resolution and focus, mainly), but that will come in time. Would I go to another concert this way? Absolutely. I may get to experience Glastonbury after all–but without the mud and drunk people.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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