Coachella 2011: Kanye West, Duran Duran and the Strokes Rock the Stage

Posted April 18, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

The official recap guide to Coachella 2011: Kanye West, Duran Duran and the Strokes all deliver the goods

The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival has finally closed its doors on yet another successful year (reportedly selling out in hours and with an estimated 80,000 in attendance per day). And we have the highlights and the low blows on this year’s festivities.

First, the disappointments

Cee Lo Green’s set on Friday was unreasonably late for his gig, resulting in a short set with only five songs. His big hit, “F**k You,” was what the crowd wanted to hear. Unfortunately it would be one of the last songs the crowd heard (a cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” was confirmed to be the last song). Festival officials had to cut his show short to make room for the next round of acts. Sadly, the Black Keys – 15 minutes behind schedule – were the next in line hurt by Green’s tardiness. The big stage didn’t help them out much and the absence of working jumbo trons behind them for twenty minutes  due to a technical glitch were a serious damper on the sea of fans squinching their eyes to see the critically-acclaimed band. Eventually, the big screens started to work. But the two-piece set, with extra help from an on-the-road bassist and keyboard player, felt like a dot on a page for the most part. The crowd also chanted a few times for more volume. It was announced by guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach that it was Patrick Carney’s birthday. The drummer blushed as the crowd shouted out “happy birthday” in unison. It was a nice way to bring some kind of life back to the show.

The Kings Still Rule

Friday’s night headliners Kings of Leon were no strangers to the Coachella stage, but they felt some added pressure on them since their popularity has blossomed with epic proportions.  With a set armed with “Sex on Fire,” “Back Down South” and a chunk of their now-classics (“Because of the Times”), lead singer Caleb Followill apologized to the crowd for keeping his shirt on. Last time they played the Indio fest, Followill ripped his shirt off. It didn’t happen this time because Followill admitted that he had gained a few pounds since the set. The insecurity may have made KOL a bit rusty (and safe) to some, but their set still managed to impress the large crowd.

Kanye’s Coachella fantasy

Kanye West closed out the festival with a juggernaut set of hits. Amazingly enough, West decided not to use fancy gimmicks or stage props to beef up his performance. With his super-sized ego, he did arrive a bit late and floatingin the air from a crane extended high above the crowd. But for the most part during the two-hour set,  there he was: On a massive stage that stretched almost a mile and, at times, looking alone in his “dark twisted fantasy.” Like an one-man opera, West leapt through his oldies and goodies like “Jesus Walks,” “Good Life” and “Golddigger” and perfectly segueing them into his latter-day jams from the Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy LP including “Monster” and “Runaway.” A brief tribute to Michael Jackson with “P.Y.T” hyped the crowd also, as West glowed in the unique comparisons to the late King of Pop. Singer Bon Iver was the only guest on the stage, as he sung his lines from the Dark Twisted material. You could hear the solo parts of Katy Perry (“E.T.”) and Charlie Wilson (“Lost In the World”), but none were present to help West in his show. Believe it or not, that’s what made West so phenomenal. He proved he didn’t really need the big surprises to keep the crowd energized. Part of the show’smystique sprung from the emotional factors during West’s more intimate moments. While singing “Say You Will,” a teary-eyed West declared that performing at Coachella was the “most important” thingto him since his mother passed. He then extended a heartfelt thanks to the crowd “to be able to close the show and see you love me after everything I read and saw on TV said the opposite.”

Earlier rumors of a Daft Punk and Katy Perry appearance started to bubble up as West’s set approached, but West was alone on this “dark, twisted” Coachella set. The larger-than-life rapper, with just a background of ballet dancers and a colossal pyramid-influenced background, only needed a mic and a stage to work the stage. That he did.

Duran Duran’s Easter Moment

Duran Duran didn’t even sound like a band that resurrected out of the zestpool of ’80’s rock bands searching for new life. Instead, they looked like reinvigorated pros with a kind of relevance that deserved to be there. Lead singer Simon Le Bon, dressed in a white tux coat, dress shirt and black checker shoes, led the crowd through a myriad of uptempo classics including “Rio,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” Notorious” and “Girls on Film.” Songs from their latest LP, All You Need Is Now, seemed to be quite satisfying and fitted perfectly into their ’80’s dominated set. Ana Matronic, who performed the evening before with the Scissor Sisters, also appeared on stage with the band on “Safe.” Although the LP was released much later in the States, Duran Duran’s appearance at Coachella opened up new windows of opportunity for the band’s highly-anticipated revival.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

The Scissor Sisters impressed fans and newbie followers with their glammed-up disco. Like Lady Gaga and Adam Lambert combining to make a power pop band, the N.Y. group – led by Ana Matronic and former go-go boy Jake Shears, dressed in golden-sprayed Velvet Goldmire get-up –  rocked the stage with an aggressively “f**ing”  fun, sexually-invigorated set of songs (“Any Which Way”) that left the crowd horny for more. The only thing missing in the set was Nicki Minaj’s dildo.

The Strokes: Coachella’s Ace in the Hole

For those watching Coachella using the 5 Gum-sponsored streaming service offered on YouTube, they may have felt bamboozled watching the set by The Strokes. The N.Y. band, with a new record (Angles) after a five year absence, was filmed entirely in black and white, much like U2’s Rattle and Hum bio-pic. It was artistic for the most part, but poor camera shots and not enough white lighting left many eyes feeling disappointed. What wasn’t disappointing was their performances. Lead singer Julian Casablancas, apparently tipsy and hiding the redshot pupils from his black blockers, ripped through his performances like a Bob Dylan after drinking a six-pack of Red Bull. He was amped on “Under Cover of Darkness,” “Gratistification” and “Hard to Explain.” Songs like “Taken for a Fool” and “Take It or Leave It” were also great teases of arena-rock. The Strokes came on before Kanye West. Before they walked off the stage for their set, with no encore in sight, Casablancas thanked the crowd and everyone performing, including the evening’s closer. The love was definitely in the air.

Other highlights

Earlier on Sunday, Nas and Damian Marley teamed up for a spectacular mash-up of golden era rap samples, bold hip-hop and infectious reggae. Mumford & Sons delighted thousands with their slice of Americana rock. PJ Harvey, wearing her Jamiroquai-inspired headband and jumping from one instrument to the next, serenaded the crowd with her brooding list of psychedelic balladry. The National also impressed with a set loaded with haunting ballads, power-packed rock decorated with lots of on-stage lighting.

Probably the biggest surprise for some, Arcade Fire– now riding high on their Grammy-award winning album The Suburbs (see HiFi Magazine, Issue No. 1 on our coverage of The Suburbs) – thrilled the fans with a barrage of songs from the album (“City With No Children,” “The Suburbs,” “Ready to Start,” “We Used to Wait”). Of course, they revisited previous hits (“Wake Up”), but the Canadian band seemed to be quite humble over their new found fame and the opportunity to headline Coachella. What Kanye did on Sunday night, in terms of making Coachella 2011 unforgettable, Arcade Fire did the same on Saturday night. With the party-like magic of a LCD Soundsystem show, glowing balls descended on the crowd, turning the evening into one festive birthday party.

Roll Call…Sir McCartney, Usher…Present

Among the music lovers in the Coachella crowd were a number of superstars including Sir Paul McCartney, Usher, Katy Perry and Vanessa Hudgens.





Coachella 2011: Kanye West doesn’t play it safe as he closes the Indio fest – Los Angeles Times
Coachella 2011: The Black Keys blackout – Los Angeles Times
Coachella 2011: Kings of Leon – Los Angeles Times
Day 3: Coachella’s GOODs, BADs and UGLYs – LA Weekly
Coachella 2011: Scissor Sisters declare themselves ‘the band that has the most fun on stage’ – Los Angeles Times
Coachella show the latest turn in the revival of Duran Duran– PopMatters
Everyone Liked Arcade Fire’s Coachella Set, Too – Vulture

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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