Saturday, November 5, 2011
The 5th man
Flicking through TV today, I stumbled upon Coldplay being interviewed by Ellen (way to rock!) and I decided to watch it - so sue me. Anyhow, Chris Martin alluded to their fifth member which I guess refers to their manager but it reminded me of something I'd read about them. When they perform live they have a fifth member who plays with them but off stage. I'm sure this happens all the time but not many bands like to talk about it.
Apparently, they learnt the trick from U2 who maintain the iconography of Bono, Edge, Larry and Adam in the arena but also have an extra player to fill out the sound. That huge U2 live sound is courtesy of five musicians but you only see the four icons from the album. This seems to be more common than you think. A while back Buddyhead reported when Korn lost a guitar player they employed a similar trick of having a hired hand on the side of stage playing guitar hiding behind a curtain (apparently, he made metal guitar face and did rock moves even though no one could see him but has since left the band, apparently a man can only play Freak on a Leash so many times in his life).
I always wondered about this because really, what's the big deal with having another touring band member to fill out the sound? I understand the mystique of rock n' roll but I hardly think that would be shattered if there was a second guitar/keyboard player on stage was at the back of the stage. Let's face it, Coldplay and U2 have huge stages, would the delicate balance of their egos be disrupted by having another player on stage? Would it confuse the audience "Like OMG, who is that guy?"
More to the point, how would any band be able to improvise if their fifth player is not within eyeshot? Some of my favourite live moments have been when musicians face off, improvising, jamming and spurring each other on to play which moves the song into something transcendent and inspired. Surely, the 5th man set up doesn't really lend itself to this. Anyhow, just saying I find this phenomenon weird. Just get the guy on stage, people won't mind...