Indio (United States) (AFP) – Choosing lyrical wit and musical innovation over stage theatrics, a reunited LCD Soundsystem showed the Coachella festival a more serious take to the booming electronic music scene.
LCD Soundsystem, whose erudite compositions made them a 2000s critical favorite, broke up in 2011 with what seemed like clear finality, playing a “last show” at New York’s Madison Square Garden that was turned into a documentary.
But the group announced a reunion in the California desert for Coachella, one of the world’s most lucrative festivals. The group warmed up with two small shows in New York with plans to hit many major summer events, including Glastonbury in England.
Taking the stage late Friday to the sound of Ace Frehley singing, “I’m back in the New York groove,” LCD Soundsystem powered through some of its hits but also showed its inventive bent.
Mastering a cover that could have easily fallen flat, the band moved the crowd with a modern take of David Bowie’s “Heroes” led by Al Doyle’s flowing guitar as singer James Murphy — who collaborated with the late rock legend — brought a rawness through his vintage microphone.
Murphy, the principal force behind LCD Soundsystem, also segued the band into a snippet of “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses — who will headline Coachella on Saturday in a highly anticipated reunion.
LCD Soundsystem entered the electronic scene as it boomed a decade ago but came from an underground starting point.
The group has insisted on live performances, taking the Coachella stage with messily wired synthesizers, and Murphy has won a following for his ironic lyricism.
The 46-year-old aptly offered small lyrical updates to “Losing My Edge,” a self-deprecating track about growing older and ceding hipsterdom to youngsters.
– Kanye surprises star sets –
LCD Soundsystem, whose stage props consisted of little more than a disco ball, opened its set just as Jack U closed on a nearby stage performing atop a supersized computer flashing neon images.
Jack U is one of the three acts at Coachella to include Diplo, the Los Angeles-based DJ who has become one of the most successful mainstream producers.
Judging by the jam-packed crowd of revelers, Jack U was one of the top attractions Friday at Coachella, which runs over two successive weekends with the same lineups for both.
Coachella is also known for surprises and Jack U obliged by bringing out rap superstar Kanye West to team up on his hit “Power.”
But it was not the first surprise of the festival as West, a prolific presence in pop culture, earlier joined younger rapper ASAP Rocky.
Despite West’s star appeal, Coachella later pulled the plug on Asap Rocky, part of the festival’s rigorous enforcement of time allotments that contributes to its reputation as smoothly efficient, even with more than 180,000 people attending over two weekends.
– ‘Let’s be awkward together’ –
Besides big names, Coachella selects up-and-coming acts who this year included Christine and the Queens, the introspective electro singer who has been winning a greater audience outside her native France.
Leaping onto stage with a desert-inspired bouquet, she said, “I took some flowers with me because this is my first date with you, Coachella, and I want to have a good memory.”
Christine, the stage character whose real name is Heloise Letissier, glided onto stage with an elegant quartet of choreographed male dancers as the palm trees behind them glistened in the afternoon sun.
She sang hits including the plaintive “Saint Claude” but built an audience-revving house beat including a cover of Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam.”
Describing her music as a celebration of individuality and acceptance, Christine offered the crowd an invitation, “Let’s be awkward together.”
Christine and her dancers perform in utilitarian white shirts and gray slacks, unlike her glam influences such as Madonna and Bowie.
Yet she allowed herself a change of costume at the end, returning in a golden metallic pantsuit, explaining, “Now that I feel at ease, I can be myself with you.”
Christine, who sings in both English and French, said she always felt a natural connection to the US music scene and used to watch Coachella performances on YouTube.
She said she enjoyed playing to audiences less familiar with her.
“I was often the opening act before things took off and I like the idea of having 40 minutes to convince people. Being anticipated and known doesn’t have the same energy,” she told AFP.
Other highlights Friday included English pop star Ellie Goulding, who delighted a packed crowd with her hits, and experimentalist Sufjan Stevens, who put on a wildly inventive set with bursts of funk as he draped himself in a giant metallic cape and then a suit made of balloons.
Stevens described the theme, loosely, as entering the vortex of a volcano.