Coachella, Days 1 and 2
EmptyFrom an opening take-off of his Wings-era 1970s hit "Jet" to the closing "The End" by the Beatles nearly three hours later, just shy of 1 a.m., Paul McCartney took the annual Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival in Indio, Calif., to a new level Friday, crossing more generations that it ever has before.
Even Roger Waters' historic appearance here last year couldn't compare with McCartney, whose audience ranged from grade-schoolers to grandparents. Some fans waited in front of the Empire Polo Field's main Coachella Stage all day, including two women with a sign saying they'd been in Las Vegas and at the Hollywood Bowl in 1965 for Beatles shows.
McCartney could've stuck to the obvious nostalgia set but instead covered his entire career, including his latest album "The Fireman," and while those new songs may pale next to his Beatles and other classic pieces, most young bands today would be lucky to craft material as winning as the newest numbers.
There was Wings' "Band on the Run" and "Live and Let Die" (with fireworks, yet) and the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," "Paperback Writer," the festival group hug of "Hey Jude" and "Get Back," as well as a quite emotional mid-set "My Love" at the piano, in memory of late wife Linda, who died 11 years ago in Arizona on the date of this show, April 17. As McCartney played the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" reprise with its line, "We hope you did enjoy the show," there was no question everyone did.
Saturday night's fine headlining set by the Killers would've been even more memorable if it hadn't been for McCartney's truly landmark appearance. The Las Vegas band has grown by leaps and bounds since its first tent appearance at the festival five years ago. The group's initial 1980s-redux style has come to encompass 1970s glam and even Springsteen-like heartland themes, albeit with a sheen. From the new "Spaceman" to their cover of Joy Division's "Shadowplay" and the charge of "Somebody Told Me," the band was a steady powerhouse, everything still capped by its epic "All These Things That I've Done."
Friday's second-billed Morrissey really was ever-snarky, including short vegetarian tirades about "burning animals" — the hot dogs, hamburgers, tacos and such for sale — but nonetheless the aging U.K. crooner delivered the goods, such as the cheeky "Girlfriend in a Coma," the glide of "Ask Me" and the churning "How Soon Is Now."
Overall, Friday registered with greater performances, especially on the main stage, almost all day. Franz Ferdinand was the most Beatles-ish outfit of the day, the Scottish band's catchy and thump-happy songs at sunset inspiring the most dancing with abandon outside of the tents on the other side of the field. The Southern metallic blues of the Black Keys dug deep for earthy grooves, while the art-rock leaning ambitions of Airborne Toxic Event made one wonder if it could become the next Arcade Fire-like breakout, and the smart-and-hooky riffing rock of Brooklyn's We Are Scientists carried the mid-afternoon.
Saturday on the main stage was much more hit-and-miss, as M.I.A., despite her success, is in no way a secondary headliner, which is how she was slotted. The prima donna went on more than a half-hour late, her one-trick pony Brit-hop shtick quickly wearing thin. But she was a sore spot in a day that included a polyrhythmic inventive dance party from Thievery Corporation, the engaging explorations of TV on the Radio and Michael Franti and Spearhead bringing some funky soul depth charges, with the off-center pop of Paulo Nutini and R&B belting grit of Joss Stone rounding out the lineup.
The secondary Outdoor Stage on Friday saw Silversun Pickups and folk-poet legend Leonard Cohen holding low-key court with his somber yet often romantic musings before a massive crowd, as well as Nebraska singer-songwriter Conor Oberst in Americana mode and edgy songwriter-guitarist M. Ward. Among Saturday's stand-outs were the gothic Southern rock of the Drive-By Truckers in the mid-afternoon; longtime alt-band Superchunk; the Latin-touched, trumpet-pushed multiguitar tales of Calexico at sundown; and the breezy and friendly pop-rock of Jenny Lewis at night.
As usual, visits to the smaller tents brought rewards, including alt-country's Ryan Bingham in the Gobi, New York's ramshackle Hold Steady in the Mojave and quirky popsters Ting Tings and impressionistic Crystal Method inside the dance-centric Sahara on Friday. Among Saturday's eclectic offerings were the Bob Mould Band and Booker T. in the Gobi, a political lecture from Henry Rollins, Britain's Glasvegas in the Mojave and a DJ set from Chemical Brothers in the Sahara.
Still to come, Sunday's closer, headed up by the grand old men of one-time Brit alternative-gone-supergroup the Cure. (partialdiff)