All-star collaborations have a long history of either being really great or really cheesy. The show’s success or failure depends on which musicians are collaborating, what song they’re playing, and whether the concert has enough weight to handle the superstars sharing the stage. Thankfully, the War Child gig at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire this past winter was the very definition of success.
The concert was coordinated by War Child, an organization that helps children in areas of conflict and post-conflict around the globe, in celebration of their 15th anniversary and the release of their Heroes album. The charity managed to score two of its biggest supporters, Coldplay and The Killers, to play the February 18th show. The concert easily sold out and set the stage for an amazing performance.
The Killers hit the stage first, blasting through a shortened, eight-song set that included the first two singles of Day and Age, as well as their past hits. Coldplay, fresh from their earlier performance at the BRIT Awards, followed up with a set of their own hits, ranging from “Viva La Vida” to “Yellow”. While the concert probably felt like a unique and great event already, Coldplay’s encore gave the fans more than they could have hoped for.
In the last song of Coldplay’s set, the band brought out Gary Barlow of Take That for a cover of “Back for Good”, a single from the band’s third album, Nobody Else. Following up this performance, Coldplay invited The Killers back to the stage. The audience cheered while Brandon Flowers sat behind the piano and sang out the first lines of “All These Things That I’ve Done.” As the two bands kicked into the song’s dusty melody, the cheers became a defining roar as Bono casually walked out on stage to join in.
Bono and Flowers exchanged verses while Chris Martin played rhythm guitar and joined in for the chorus. The bridge quieted everything down for a second but the crowd soon began singing, “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier” before any of the artists on stage could. Martin noticed that Barlow had slipped away during the song’s intro and used the small break to retrieve the Take That singer.
By the time the large assembly of musicians went into the final chorus, everyone in the venue was swept up in the song. Both the artists on stage and fans in the audience looked like they were ecstatic to be there. When Bono continued to shout out the soul/soldier line with the audience as the two bands wrapped up the song, it was easy to tell that everyone there knew they had experienced one of the greatest finales of their lives. The fact that the show was for War Child only added to the strength of the performance. The crowd was shouting out not just for their love of the music but also for their support of the organization and the chance to be part of such an intimate show.