LOOKING out at 50,000 excited fans awaiting the arrival of their musical heroes is an unforgettable spectacle.
Getting older ... Coldplay
Special guests SFTW are side of stage at Cape Town Stadium as Coldplay prepare for their first ever show in South Africa.
And as with all their gigs, Coldplay are ready to give their all tonight.
After an hour of vocal warm-ups, the band are geeing each other up with just minutes to go.
Drummer Will Champion performs some eye-watering leg stretches before they gather in a hug. Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman, Will, unofficial fifth member and manager Phil Harvey and, er, SFTW after Chris drags me into the huddle. Then they run on stage to play new tracks Mylo Xyloto and Hurts Like Heaven.
"We're so happy to be here finally, after 12 years. It took us that long to get a visa. We apologise," jokes Chris to an ecstatic crowd who are being showered with paper butterflies.
All day the city's been buzzing about Coldplay. The customs officers at the airport ask: "Are you here for Coldplay?" while fans queuing outside the stadium are treated to a pre-show of sorts as the band arrive to do a sound check.
Cape Town is one of three spectacular Coldplay shows SFTW has witnessed this summer in the run-up to the release of fifth album Mylo Xyloto — the others being Glastonbury and Lollapalooza festival in Chicago.
It's been 11 years since the band — who all met as students in the late Nineties at University College London — had their first Top 40 hit, Shiver.
In the band's dressing room frontman Chris, 34, says: "We have been Coldplay all our adult lives. So when we re-emerge every three years, we realise pop stars are getting a lot younger.
"We forget we're getting older because we're together all the time. We've not seen each other grow up, we think we are the same age as when we started."
Coldplay's last album, 2008's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends, was a real step forward for the band. Back then Chris told SFTW: "It's a bit of a risk because there isn't a Yellow."
Working with super-producer Brian Eno, they experimented. And the marching drums, spine-tingling atmospherics, strings and timpani all paid off.
The album became the world's biggest-selling album of 2008. But Chris explains: "Not in any individual country, which is funny. We were not the most popular band in any country... just the world!"
And so follow-up album, the unusually titled Mylo Xyloto, has been made by a band finally at ease with themselves.
No longer worrying if they are perceived as cool or naff, Coldplay simply don't care as long as the music they make meets their own approval.
Guitarist Jonny, 34, says: "We've spent so long being solely bothered about what the five of us, Brian Eno and (producer) Markus Dravs think that we are happy with it."
Chris adds: "Each song goes through such a harsh selection process just to get recorded.
"It makes The X Factor seem like a walk in the park. We scrapped a full album before this. But we always do that." Will, 33, says: "We'd started an acoustic album but then we wrote Paradise and knew the acoustic thing didn't have legs."
Bassist Guy, 33, adds: "We've been brave and bold with these songs. There are more modern, urban and dance influences in there. We approached it with a lot of confidence."
The last few years have clearly been a learning curve for Coldplay.
Chris says: "I'll be honest. On the last album a few things happened that we'd never experienced before, like lawsuits and really vitriolic criticism.
"After all that hurt it makes you tighter and adds fire to everything. It was a closing of ranks."
Coldplay were accused of plagiarism three times for their song Viva La Vida. First by American band Creaky Boards and then Yusuf Islam claimed it was similar to his song Foreigner Suite.
Creaky Boards retracted while Yusuf declared he wasn't angry and would "love to sit down and have a cup of tea with Coldplay to let them know it's OK".
However, in December 2008, American guitarist Joe Satriani filed a copyright infringement suit against Coldplay, claiming Viva La Vida borrowed from his instrumental track If I Could Fly.
The case was dismissed in September 2009 by the California Central District Court with both parties potentially agreeing to an out-of-court settlement.
Chris says: "We got to a very low place on the last record where we felt not very popular. But it was refreshing as it made us start from scratch. A clean slate. So many people had made up their minds about us already that we had nothing to lose."
Mylo Xyloto is an album bursting with colours.
Paradise and Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall are up there with their catchiest of singles.
It's Coldplay at their poppiest with huge urban and R&B influences. And no more so than on Princess Of China, which features Rihanna. Chris says: "We love Rihanna's music. We love so many different kinds of music that there is really nothing to lose by reflecting that in your record." It's a concept album following boy and girl characters — Mylo and Xyloto — in a scary and oppressive world.
Starting from scratch ... Chris Martin in action
Will says: "They fall in love and try to escape together, the songs following what happens. Charlie Brown is about running away while Paradise is about feeling lost. The ending is very powerful and about love conquering all."
Jonny adds: "People listen to albums as a whole a lot less now, but we wanted this one to be heard like that."
Mylo Xyloto sees Brian Eno take on a bigger role with Coldplay. No longer just a producer, Jonny says he was "like a band member", joining them to play keyboards.
Chris laughs: "Last time he was a Dumbledore figure. He'd come in, do magic and then disappear, leaving cryptic clues to what we were supposed to do."
Guy adds: "But this time Brian was really doing what he loves doing best — sowing the seeds of ideas and letting them grow."
The album was recorded at their studio as well as on the road in Japan, Australia, LA and Chicago.Chris explains: "The morning of Lollapalooza we'd just finished the song Up In Flames. It was a Phileas Fogg recording session. Once Will agreed it was good then we knew we could hand the album in as he is our strictest member."
Chris says being away from his family — wife Gwyneth Paltrow, 39, and daughter Apple, seven, and son Moses, five — is hard but could be worse. He says: "It's not like being on an oil rig or being a soldier. We are talking about being away a week at a time and then you can meet them in Bognor or wherever you are going next. And I also buy a lot of Lego to take home."
After the show, we head off to a party at a club called Trinity.
The band don't have a party-hard reputation but they are still in good spirits. Magician David Blaine is there, showing off his tricks to the band's crew, family and friends.
Chris says: "Things have moved so fast for the band that we don't have a lot of time to reflect.
"We're so grateful for where we have got to, though sometimes it feels like a never-ending tour!"
Jonny adds: "But we luckily don't share rooms any more."
"But we still get changed in a van like the old days," interrupts Chris. "Granted it's on the way to an aeroplane, but if you can't see each other in your underpants every day then you are not a real band any more."
So have Coldplay grown accustomed to the fame, headlining huge festivals like Glastonbury or playing to 50,000 fans a night?
"It's never normal," says Chris. "But it's not as mad as it used to be. I only get recognised when I'm with my wife. And then they spot her, so that's great.
"I recently had a cab driver say to me, 'You look like that singer'. I said 'I am', and he just laughed.
"But I never think of this as real life. On tour everything revolves around you so getting home is a head-f***, but something you need.
"One day you're headlining Wembley and the next you're arguing with a mum at school about parking. Now that is real life."
Mylo Xyloto is out on October 24. Coldplay's UK tour begins in Norwich on October 27. Go to coldplay.com.