Coldplay’s Concerts in Latin America Were the Year’s Biggest Shows

British singer Chris Martin told the sold-out crowd of more than 40,000 at Costa Rica’s Estadio Nacional in March 2022 — and “welcome and thank you” may be just enough Spanish to cement Coldplay’s popularity in the region forever.

Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams Tour – $524 million selling 5.38 million tickets sold in 114 dates

“Over the years, Chris has developed a good level of what you might call ‘frontman Spanish,’” says Phil Harvey, the band’s manager. “It’s not what I would say is fluent, but he knows enough that he can conduct a concert in Spanish, and obviously that’s helpful in large parts of Latin America.”

The concert in San José, Coldplay’s first performance in Costa Rica, kicked off the band’s Music of the Spheres tour, which eventually played 41 sold-out stadiums throughout Latin America, from Mexico to Peru to Colombia to Chile. The band hit the top two slots on the 2023 midyear Top Boxscores chart with two runs in South America: six dates in March at Estadio do Morumbi in São Paulo drawing almost 440,000 fans and grossing $40.1 million, and six dates last November at Estadio Unico Diudad de la Plata in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with more than 376,000 fans and a $29.8 million gross. The band also hit No. 13 with three dates in Rio de Janeiro later in March, totaling 211,000 fans and a $17.2 million gross. All in all, not counting the band’s performance at the sold-out, 100,000-capacity Rock in Rio festival in Brazil last September, its tour dates in Latin America earned more than $193.3 million, according to Boxscore.

English-speaking rock stars from the United States and Europe have sold out shows in Latin America over the decades, of course, including Aerosmith and Lady Gaga, but Coldplay has spent the last several years burrowing unprecedentedly into local territories and cultures. In addition to tiny gestures such as speaking Spanish, the band invited Colombian singer Manuel Turizo onstage in Bogotá and Argentine star Tini in Buenos Aires for duets. In Buenos Aires, Coldplay covered beloved Argentine rock en espanol band Soda Stereo’s 1990 hit “De Música Ligera”; in Colombia, it covered local hero J Balvin’s 2019 hit with Bad Bunny “La Canción.” (It probably didn’t hurt the band’s Latin American popularity that Camila Cabello, who is Cuban American, opened several dates.)

Midyear Boxscore charts are based on figures reported to MarkMeets for Eligible shows played between Nov. 1, 2022 and April 30, 2023.

“The Latin American audience is so fanatically loyal — if you’re loyal to them, they’re not going to forget you, the way crowds do in the U.S. and Europe,” says Bruno Del Granado, CAA’s global head of Latin music, who does not work with Coldplay. “A lot of times, international bands go to Latin America and they phone it in. They don’t want to deal with the language barrier. By having Manuel Turizo onstage, then singing his song, it’s like, ‘Wait a second, this guy wants to learn our culture.’”

In addition to the onstage moments, Coldplay has spent the last few years routing tours with prominent dates in Latin American countries — its 2016 A Head Full of Dreams tour began and ended in La Plata, Argentina, with stops in Chile, Peru, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. “That was very deliberate,” says Jared Braverman, senior vp of global touring for Live Nation, Coldplay’s longtime promoter. “They’ve always made it a point to prioritize many countries that get passed over because they’re not easy to get to. That builds up an audience over time.”

Over the years, many Western pop and rock stars have sold out large venues throughout Latin America, from Aerosmith’s regional tours beginning in the late 1970s to Rock in Rio, the Brazilian festival that debuted in 1985 and attracts some 700,000 attendees every other year. American rockers such as Keith Richards in the ’80s and Metallica in the ’90s, according to Del Granado, emphasized Latin American dates. The difference over the last two decades, he adds, is “state-of-the-art arenas,” such as the 11-year-old Mexico City Arena, the 4-year-old Movistar Arena in Buenos Aires and the Movistar Arena in Bogotá, renovated in 2018. “So it’s not even a case of, ‘Oh, my God, what am I going to do? Play in an open field or a bullfighting ring or a stadium?’” Del Granado says. “There’s no real excuse for bands not to go down there.”

Coldplay’s Western contemporaries have flirted with the same idea of building up Latin American credibility by paying tribute on the ground to beloved local songs and artists: In 2017, Maroon 5 performed a Portuguese version of the Getz/Gilberto Brazilian jazz classic “The Girl From Ipanema” at Rock in Rio. “But Coldplay has embraced it head-on,” says Bruce Moran, president of Live Nation Latin America, adding that music stars are scheduled to play 70 stadiums in the region in 2023. “It’s not just that they’re smart and savvy, but they really have embraced their fans in all regions — and it has paid off, clearly.”

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Stevie Flavio
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