Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Coachella Festival 2009 review - Day 3


Time is a precious commodity at Coachella. There’s never enough of it to see everything you want. On Sunday, The Cure continued McCartney and The Killers’ trend of playing way past midnight and suffered mightily for it. The Cure’s power and lighting were eventually cut after a strange marathon show that catered almost exclusively to diehard followers (rarities were favored).

Robert Smith (pictured above, left) and Porl Thompson crafted many mesmerizing guitar soundscapes in the 32-song set (“From the End of the Deep Green Sea,” the careening “Hundred Years”), but the biggest cheers came from popular “Disintegration” material (“Lovesong,” “Pictures of You,” “Lullaby,” “Prayers for Rain,” “Disintegration”) and smattering of hits (“In Between Days,” “Just Like Heaven”). A reworked “Wrong Number” was a pleasant surprise. Smith said very little and smiled a few times. The crowd thinned out very early in the performance. Some people behind me got fed up and said they wanted to dance and apparently headed over to the Sahara Tent where Groove Armada and Etienne de Crecy played.

I don’t get all the fuss over My Bloody Valentine. The reunited Irish band tested the Coachella crowd’s tolerance level on the main stage with notoriously loud selections off “Loveless.” Epic (and I do mean epic – it lasted 10 to 15 minutes) white noise closer “You Made Me Realise” was akin to standing next to a Space Shuttle launch. Not fun or interesting to these ears. Sure, I liked many of the shoegazer acts they spawned in the early 1990s, but MBV wasn’t thrilling at all.

Veteran Paul Weller (pictured above, right) put on a killer sunset performance highlighted by, well, everything was ace: frantic “From the Floorboards Up,” “The Sinking,” Motown vibe in “22 Dreams” (title track from his latest double album), a fierce version of The Jam’s “Eton Rifles” and the extended, trippy psychedelia of “Porcelain Gods” and “The Changingman.” Weller appeared surprised to have less than an hour onstage. Yet the Brit rock legend dutifully wrapped with “C’mon, Let’s Go” another supercharged Jam gem, “A Town Called Malice,” featuring Johnny Marr on guitar. There was no need for Weller to have to be saddled with such a short set since Public Enemy followed more than an hour later. Coachella organizers probably didn’t want to saddle him with MBV’s ear bleeding noise drifting over.

Earlier in the day, England’s Friendly Fires lived up to the hype with fun Talking Heads-meets-New Order tunes like “Lovesick” and “Photo Booth” from last year's self-titled debut. Fans threw confetti into the air and shimmied right along.

The Gaslight Anthem
’s earnest punk songs added some coolness to a sweaty afternoon (especially “Backseat” and “The ’59 Sound”). Leader Brian Fallon tossed in some Tom Waits ("Downtown Train") and Ben E. King ("Stand By Me") lyrical references for good measure.

X bassist John Doe announced that fans had picked the setlist via the X website, but "there were a lot of slow ones; we're going to put in some fast ones too." The band, with ever-smiling guitarist Billy Zoom and caterwauling singer Exene, was solid as always. “Breathless,” “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline,” “Los Angeles” and “White Girl” still packing a classic punk wallop decades later. I really didn't want to leave them, but another band beckoned on another stage.

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