The Man Behind the Curtain: 'Roadie: My Life on the Road With Coldplay' by Matt McGinn

June 30, 2010

There’s something impressive about a band that’s so big even its roadie can publish a book. That band is Coldplay, and the group’s roadie (and guitar tech) Matt McGinn spills tons of tales from tour in “Roadie: My Life on the Road With Coldplay” (Anova Books).

The book is an easy read; McGinn has a conversational style that he spices up with Britishisms (“knackered,” “bloody” as an adverb, and so on), and the book reads as if you’ve caught up with him over a cold brew. It almost feels like a novel in that respect, as he recounts even disaster stories of failing equipment at a big show with a wink and an upbeat tone.

The only thing is: This is not a novel, and we all, of course, know how the Coldplay story goes, from unknown group to world-famous in the blink of an eye. And while any nonfiction book faces the same challenge, the issue with “Roadie” is that McGinn is writing from the present perspective. A reader knows where the band’s going not just because of his own knowledge of the band’s history, but also because McGinn is so excited to get to Coldplay’s world domination phase that he nearly trips over his own feet getting there.

Some events he describes — such as the band’s headlining the first night of the Glastonbury Festival in 2002 — are huge in their own right, but instead of pausing to enjoy the moment with a “Holy cow; look how far we’ve gotten!,” McGinn’s tone almost takes on the air of, “This is cool, but you won’t guess where we’re going next!”

Still, there’s more to “Roadie” than stories of Coldplay’s ascendency; McGinn offers a chapter entitled “Gig Day” which takes readers through a typical day on tour and spells out, in his own lighthearted way, all the things that happen before fans line up at the stadium. McGinn also reveals himself as the man behind the curtain as he reminisces about playing guitar parts for the song “Yellow” for a year on tour — completely out of sight of the crowd.

“Roadie” is full of such quirky stories about the tour life, but thankfully it’s not a chronological history. Likely because shows and venues and cities tend to blur together on the road, a lot of these stories seem of the “There was this one time …” variety (even if McGinn does name the venue), but that just adds to the conversational style.

The book’s release timing couldn’t be better, since it is, after all, beach season. There are far worse seaside reads than a book about real people off doing real things, and McGinn’s relatable behind-the-scenes perspective makes for an unusual — if still casual — read.

Written by Express contributor Catherine Lewis
Image courtesy Anova Books

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Katie Knorovsky · June 29, 2010