Photo by Robert Kinsler
Friday’s Coachella performance schedule had plenty of standouts. In the mid-afternoon, it was New York’s As Tall As Lions (pictured above), which packed the Mojave Tent. Opening with “Circles,” from latest album You Can’t Take It With You, the alt-rock band proceeded to amaze with an often experimental sense of Radiohead-style dynamics. Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Dan Nigro’s expressive gestures and falsetto wails, paired with lead guitarist Saen Fitzgerald’s crystalline effects a la The Edge on “In Case of Rapture,” “The Narrows” and the title track, equalled one truly compelling set.
Austin DJ Wolfgang Gartner held court while a large swath of electronic music enthusiasts danced up a storm at the Sahara Tent. His set concluded with the La Roux remix “In For the Kill.”
Soon after, La Roux – an acclaimed British synth-pop duo led by young female vocalist Elly Jackson – drew an overflow evening capacity crowd to the Gobi Tent. It was difficult to get a consistently clear view due to about a dozen rude female fans who stood on their boyfriends’ shoulders (personally, I wish people could be ejected from any Coachella stage for doing so). La Roux – augmented by two keyboardists and a percussionist – started with a vibrant “Quicksand” from their self-titled debut and performed in front of what looked like tropical fruit shaped balloons. Clad in a white jacket, black outfit and sporting her trademark upswept red hair, the androgynous Jackson and company went down a storm.
Still, she often came off detached live, with a thin voice and sang with back turned to the crowd or facing the floor. Recalling the ’80s sound of Erasure and Depeche Mode with the stylistic aesthetic of Annie Lennox, La Roux’s slower ballads (“As If By Magic”) were overwhelmed by the programming. “I’m not a big fan of covers; this is my favorite Rolling Stones song,” she said, before doing a haunting electronic version without changing the gender in the lyrics. The crowd went bonkers for the dance hit “In For the Kill” (one obviously inebriated guy decided to jump on a pole supporting a tent entrance and swing like a monkey – talk about dangerous!) and alluring “Fascination.”
Although its heavy competition was Jay-Z on the main stage, John Lydon and Public Image Ltd. drew a bigger-than-expected audience at the Outdoor Theatre. Going onstage late, at 11:35 p.m., due to some technical difficulties (the lighted band logo backdrop precariously swayed with the winds and Lydon complained about the sound), they performed until around 1 a.m. The former Johnny Rotten/sometime Sex Pistol was in fine snarky and caterwauling form throughout. The dancey “This is Not a Love Song” kicked things off and worked well without horns. Lydon – in only his second U.S. performance in over 15 years – had a lyric stand as a safeguard, but rarely seemed to use it.
PiL proceeded to do a tight, riveting set that focused on searing late ’70s/early ’80s material like “Poptones,” “Death Disco” (a young female concertgoer behind me exclaimed “wow” when it was over) and “Flowers of Romance.” Guitarist Lu Edmonds unleashed chilling shards of punkish sound at every turn as the taut rhythm section kept the funky undertow. Those who stayed until the wee hours were rewarded with fiery takes on “Public Image,” “Rise” and the electronic rock of “Open Up,“ Lydon’s hit 1990s Leftfield collaboration.