Thursday, April 25

Coachella 2010: Mirage of music


Despite a pesky Icelandic volcano eruption, most acts (and most fans) made it out to the California desert for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

Bands played to a sold-out crowd during the three days, and celebrities spotted included John Mayer, movie director Eli Roth with girlfriend Peaches Geldof, and, for some reason, Danny DeVito. A&E staff reviewed some of their favorite performances from the weekend.

Jay-Z

Friday, Coachella Stage

The few hip-hop headliners in Coachella history would have to fire on all cylinders if they wanted to live up to the responsibility. Jay-Z did that and more, setting a new level of expectation for headliners of future festivals. Playing with a full live band and decked out in dark shades and a suave leather jacket, the Jigga Man cherry-picked between the greatest hits of his career and some unexpected deep cuts. The crowd was responsive the whole night through, singing every lyric to classics such as “Hard Knock Life” and “Izzo.” Throwing up the Roc-A-Fella Diamond, the crowd bounced like a seething mob of energy during some of the most iconic rap songs of all time, such as “Dirt off Your Shoulders” and “Big Pimpin’.” The career-defining “99 Problems” sounded simply massive, and there was nothing more satisfying than rapping every word of the classic traffic-stopping second verse right along with Jay-Z and every member of the audience. Near the end of the set, Jay-Z invited his wife, Beyoncé, to join him on stage for a moving rendition of “Forever Young” off of his most recently released record, “The Blueprint 3.” The song acted as a perfect way to remember just how special moments like Jay-Z’s sets truly are, as he implores you to remember that “forever young is in your mind.” He proved it at Pauley Pavilion in November, and he proved it again at Coachella on Friday night: He’s not a businessman, he’s a business, man.

““ Christopher Robinson

Muse

Saturday, Coachella Stage

From the thunderous opening of its latest hit “Uprising” to the epic conclusion of “Knights of Cydonia,” Muse always kept the momentum going with strong vocals, powerful guitar and bass, and pulsating drum beats. The crowd never stopped moving as Muse performed the hits from each of its albums, from “Starlight” to “Time is Running Out.” Muse also kept things interesting by playing the strongest tracks from its latest album, “The Resistance,” including “Resistance” and “Undisclosed Desires.” The performance featured green lasers that spread throughout the crowd, with weird futuristic images and jolty shots of the band shown on the large screens to provide a constant source of energy. With the band’s demanding stage presence and uncompromisingly intense delivery of each song, there was never a dull moment. What was most astonishing was how lead singer Matthew Bellamy maintained his rich voice, belting each word amid thunderous instrumentals. Muse is clearly a new breed of rock, delivering an energy and presence so grandiose you’ll wish you were listening to Muse live every time you hear them.

““ Michael Palumbo

Vampire Weekend

Friday, Outdoor Theater

As the sun set behind the Outdoor Theater, the vampires came out to start off Friday night of Coachella weekend. Leaping on stage to House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” Vampire Weekend launched into “White Sky” of its new album “Contra” wearing ripped shirts, dress shirts and jeans. Lead singer Ezra Koenig commanded the audience to let out a “painful scream of life” on “M79″ that shook the lit chandeliers above the stage, which added another element of class as a reference to their first record. The audience also helped out on “One (Blake’s Got A New Face)” during a call-and-response filled with post-punk energy and excitement. Employing Auto-Tune and reverb guitars, the band impressed a cheering crowd with fast guitar picking and deafening drum rolls as they sang about cousins, horchata and those pesky Oxford commas.

““ Shannon Cosgrove

MGMT

Saturday, Outdoor Theater

With new album “Congratulations” released just last week, MGMT greeted the large crowd Saturday evening with its latest single, “Flash Delirium,” which, much like the rest of the album, is tame and not nearly as infectious or original as its 2008 debut, “Oracular Spectacular.” While every new track is infused with MGMT’s psychedelic pop sound, the band seems to have honed its sound rather than explore or reinvent it. When the band continued to play songs from its new album, the crowd wasn’t nearly as receptive as when it played tracks such as “Weekend Wars” and “Electric Feel.” MGMT’s entire performance was strong and consistent, with the unique vocals of Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden delivering striking notes to complement the gentle guitar strums and unusual and outlandish synthesizers. The most memorable moment of MGMT’s set was when VanWyngarden asked how many people in the audience were on drugs. When virtually the entire crowd uproariously cheered, MGMT began performing the ubiquitous “Time To Pretend.” The most disappointing element of the performance was when MGMT decided to close with “Brian Eno,” leaving everyone to wonder why the band never played “Kids,” one of MGMT’s most popular songs.

““ Michael Palumbo

LCD Soundsystem

Friday, Coachella Stage

Brooklyn took over the main stage Friday night, beginning with a bona fide dance party by electronic mastermind James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. Donning an all-white suit, Murphy electrified the entire audience with long drawn-out mixes of fan favorites spanning his first two critically acclaimed albums. He got the party started with one of his most danceable tracks, the fun sing-along tune of “the time has come,” which blended seamlessly into the less-is-more “Us v Them.” Murphy found time to treat the audience to three songs off his soon-to-be-released third record, “This Is Happening,” including the tongue-in-cheek first single “Drunk Girls,” the fist-pumping anthem “Pow Pow,” and the emotionally poignant “I Can Change.” The absolute highlight of the evening was Murphy’s signature song, the slow-building “All My Friends,” which concludes with the repeated refrain of “Where are your friends tonight?” Murphy ended his set with the epic one-two punch of an extended remix version of “Yeah” and the John Lennon-inspired ballad to his hometown, “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” Thankfully, the only thing that LCD Soundsystem was bringing down was the house.

““ Christopher Robinson

Grizzly Bear

Friday, Mojave Tent

You wouldn’t expect to see bears in the Coachella desert, but Grizzly Bear seemed to be in its natural habitat. The band’s set put listeners in a big comfy chair of sound, as it started off with thick low bass and slid into reverb-saturated guitars and echoey vocals. The band jumped into its “Yellow House” hit “Knife,” standing as a choir of sullen angels. The poppy piano of “Two Weeks” preceded girls’ screams, which marked its popularity. Muted guitar released into rolling drums, and the audience sang along with other hits off of “Veckatimest,” such as “While You Wait for the Others.” Varied rhythms and instruments such as the clarinet and autoharp kept songs fresh until the last note. As the audience was released from the slo-mo trance of the set, many must have wondered if what they experienced was just another Coachella mirage.

““ Shannon Cosgrove

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