For the next half-hour, one of the most recognizable figures in rock and pop music sat at the piano in his home studio, took requests from Instagram users, played various fan favorites from the Coldplay catalogue, covered classic tunes such as David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” and riffed on standards like “As Time Goes By.” The whole thing had a true off-the-cuff, let’s-get-through-this-together feel. At times, he couldn’t remember certain parts to songs and broke out laughing.
As concerts are rapidly being canceled for the foreseeable future, artists such as Martin, Neil Young, Keith Urban, Pink, and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service are turning to various social media platforms to perform music for their quarantined and isolated fans. It’s part of what’s quickly becoming the new normal, as people across the United States — and the world — practice social distancing, or the general avoidance of other people and crowds, in hopes of slowing the spread of covid-19.
At one point in his stream, Martin said, “maybe tomorrow, someone else will take it over” and dubbed the informal series “Together at Home.”
John Legend took up that torch, tweeting on Monday, “My friend Chris Martin did a lovely little concert from home today. I’ll be doing one tomorrow at 1 p.m. Pacific time. See you soon. We’ll try to get through this together! #TogetherAtHome.” He’ll have at least one fan watching, as his wife Chrissy Teigen made clear when she tweeted, “I’ll be there!! because I literally have no choice.”
This #TogetherAtHome series — if it truly becomes a series — highlights a trend created by the novel coronavirus global pandemic.
Gibbard announced he’ll be streaming himself performing songs on YouTube and Facebook every day from his home studio at 4 p.m. Eastern, beginning on Tuesday. In a letter announcing the decision, which he posted to the Death Cab for Cutie Twitter account, Gibbard noted our efforts to “help flatten the curve” have “left us all incredibly isolated.” “But,” he added, “because we’re all going through this nightmare together we are quite literally NOT alone.”
In the letter, he thanked fans for their years of support, adding “in this crazy and unprecedented time, I’d like to return to the favor by coming to YOU.”
Similarly, Young posted to his website a photo of his two dogs and his fireplace along with a brief note stating, “Because we are all at home and not many are venturing out, we will try to do a stream from my fireplace with my lovely wife filming.” He didn’t offer many details, including when the production might happen, but said it “will be a down-home production, a few songs, a little time together.” It most likely will mirror his recent performance of “Heart of Gold,” which he and his wife Daryl Hannah streamed in front of that same fireplace during a digital rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders, which also included Jim James of My Morning Jacket and the Free Nationals.
In other instances, planned shows are becoming digital experiences. After the cancellation of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo that Urban was scheduled to play on March 16, he live-streamed a 30-minute set that he played for a single audience member: his wife, Nicole Kidman.
And raucous Irish rockers the Dropkick Murphys weren’t going to let a little thing like the cancellation of their annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which they’ve been playing for decades in Boston, stop them. Instead, as the band tweeted, “THE SHOW MUST GO ON !! We’re STREAMING UP FROM BOSTON for ST. PATRICK’S DAY” on its website — for anyone looking to mosh along in their living rooms.
Some artists are offering smaller glimpses into their quarantined life, such as Pink. The pop star posted a video to Instagram in which she announced that she’s “decided to learn the piano, once and for all,” before performing a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love.”
As musicians including Billie Eilish, Green Day, Kenny Chesney, Khalid, Pearl Jam, Pixies, the Rolling Stones and the Who continue to cancel their tours, finding ways to share the closest possible thing to a communal musical experience will probably continue.
Only now, you can attend in your pajamas.