There were many highlights of Coachella this year, which I could attend for only the 3rd time, since it didn’t coincide with Passover as it normally does (I camped on the grounds, $55 for the weekend). Leonard Cohen’s 1-hour set was dessert for me, having seen him do a full 3 hour show in San Diego the previous week. This time I got to stand on the rail right in front of him, though. Paul McCartney’s often emotional 2 ½ hour performance (on the 11th anniversary of Linda McCartney’s death) was marked by a good selection of Wings and Beatles tunes, some of the better material from his recent albums, a take of Joe Turner’s “Honey Hush” which he introduced as one of the coolest records he listened to as a youth in Liverpool, and a few (to me) strange choices from his solo albums (“Flaming Pie”?!?). He paid tribute to John Lennon several times (including a coda of “Give Peace a Chance” for “A Day in the Life”), showed his iron lungs on a scorching encore of “Helter Skelter,” and provided the most touching moment of the day with a beautiful version of George Harrison’s “Something,” dedicated to George’s widow Olivia who was in attendance (I think her son’s band was playing the festival, but if so I missed it).
Other bands I greatly enjoyed, the-previously-unknown-to-me Alberta Cross (British sixties-influenced hard rock) and Cage The Elephant (a cross of The Stooges and The Monkees, with an audience-invading frontman who was a happy version of Iggy), the delicate sounds of The Fleet Foxes (unfortunately contending with the bleeding disco of The Thievery Corporation from the main stage), a terrific American-Mexican hybrid from Tucson’s Calexico (including their stirring version of Love’s “Alone Again, Or”), and Morrissey singing his tales of depression and complaining about being able to smell “the burning of flesh — and I can only hope it’s human” from a nearby food stand. I was somewhat disappointed by The Hold Steady, since lead singer/head nerd Craig Finn’s voice was down to a croak for most of the set, obscuring his clever lyrics, and even though I love the 2-man powerhouse The Black Keys, their drums-guitar blues set didn’t really work on the massive main stage, which was more suited to big-gesture acts like M.I.A. and The Killers, who can project (with a little bombast) to the back part of a crowd that’s over 50,000 people. M.I.A. seemed weird to me, she kept talking about how she was probably going to fail on the main stage and get bumped back to a tent, and the graphics in her show made her seem like part of a giant Dance Dance Revolution videogame. But then I’m 56 years old and hardly her target audience.
And my hopes for Joss Stone were dashed once again — a voice that could be this generation’s Aretha swamped in lousy arrangements and cruddy material. At Coachella in 95-degree heat she actually insulted the audience when they wouldn’t respond more enthusiastically to her music and do her hackneyed call-and-response bidding.
Still upset about the guilty verdict in the Phil Spector trial, I wore the “Free Phil” button he gave me several months ago. . .nobody commented on it. The kids probably don’t know who he is. Of course, given how much time they spent on their iPhones during the shows, they could have googled it.
This is my first contribution to RBP Blogs. . .no telling how much I’ll do. Next month I see The Allman Brothers and The Dead within a three day period, with Warren Haynes in both bands. That might be worth writing about. . .
(My sixties-themed radio show Pet Sounds can be heard 1st and 3rd Mondays 10pm-Midnight PDST on KVMR-FM 89.5 in the Sacramento area and streaming at www.kvmr.org )