Live Review: Coachella 2009, Day 3
The 2009 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival closed in triumphant fashion on Sunday (April 19). The lineup, while not as flashy as the ones offered up on Friday and Saturday, was the overall strongest of the event.
Indeed, it may well turn out to be the best single-day offering to be found at any rock/pop festival in the U.S. this year. That's a mighty big statement, but it's also one that seemed entirely plausible on Sunday as fans watched a continuous string of sets by the likes of X, My Bloody Valentine, Antony and the Johnsons, Paul Weller, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Public Enemy and The Cure.
The latter, a true legend in the modern-rock world, was the main-stage headliner--a role that was filled on Friday by Paul McCartney and on Saturday by The Killers--and clearly the No. 1 reason why an estimated 50,000 concertgoers turned out on Sunday to the Empire Polo grounds in Indio, CA. Yet, The Cure wasn't the act that turned this Coachella closer into a historic day for music.
The band that accomplished that feat was Public Enemy, as the troupe used the forum to deliver a complete version of its 1988 hip-hop manifesto, "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back." According to Public Enemy No. 1, a.k.a. lead rapper Chuck D, Sunday's show marked the first time the band had performed the work in its entirety in the US in nearly 16 years.
The result was nothing less than enthralling, a joyous opportunity for fans to throw their hands in the air and wave them like they just didn't care, as Chuck D and his sidekick-turned-reality-TV-star Flava Flav brought all those magnificent songs back to life onstage. Chuck D, arguably the greatest rapper to ever spit into a microphone, was a powerful force, and Flava Flav provided just the right counterpoint throughout the night. It was clear as the songs unfolded, and the sense of urgency to the music continued to grow, that Chuck D and Flava Flav rank as the best one-two punch that hip-hop has ever produced.
Just a notch below Public Enemy on the highlight list was X, the legendary SoCal group that has influenced countless other punk acts. The band's 50-minute set was as tuneful as it was hardcore, equally nostalgic and adventuresome, and it served as a convincing testament that old-school West Coast punk rock has held up over the years at least as well as its counterparts in New York and the UK.
The only other set that really measured up to Public Enemy and X that this critic saw on Sunday, among the 50 or so that took place during the 12-hour concert, came courtesy of The Brian Jonestown Massacre. The group's fuzzed-out and psychedelic multi-guitar attack--which, at times, included as many as five axes--was a pure joy to witness onstage. If there's a better garage-rock band in America right now, one that follows the Velvet Underground tradition more convincingly, I have yet to hear it.
Toss in an explosive outing by My Bloody Valentine and a slick set by Paul Weller on Sunday, as well as so many other fine performances by acts on Friday and Saturday, and it's no surprise that some fans could be heard already making plans for Coachella 2010 as they exited the turnstiles.
Here are this critic's picks for the top 10 sets at Coachella 2009:
1. Paul McCartney (Friday)--Still Fab after all these years
2. Public Enemy (Sunday)--Has there ever been a better rap group?
3. Leonard Cohen (Friday)--A true class act
4. TV on the Radio (Saturday)--Even better live than on record
5. Silversun Pickups (Friday)--At the height of its powers right now
6. Bob Mould (Saturday)--One of the most powerful vocalist/guitarists around
7. Brian Jonestown Massacre (Sunday)--Velvet Underground fans will love this group
8. X (Sunday)--Legendary SoCal band's music has weathered the years very well
9. Jenny Lewis (Saturday)--Great with or without Rilo Kiley
10. The Black Keys (Friday)--One of the better blues-rock combos in recent history
Full Coachella coverage:
Day One: Review | Photos
Day Two: Review | Photos
Day Three: Photos