The 2010 Coachella Music and Arts festival came to a close Sunday night (April 18) with strong sets by its mainstagers Gorillaz, Thom Yorke and Pavement, and surprises by more than a few artists on the field.
While the name of Thom Yorke's new outfit, Atoms for Peace, was not published in the festival's printed matter, his band was filled with artists more than familiar with festival-headlining gigs, most notably the Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist Flea. Together, they adapted songs from Yorke's solo album "The Eraser," as well as several Radiohead songs, with a world beat-inflected, danceable sound and softer acoustic-style instrumentation that extended their appeal to new audiences.
Pavement, who played one of the first U.S. shows since announcing its reunion, exceeded audience expectations. With a tightly performed set, the group breezed through its discography confidently with punched-up arrangements that took advantage of Coachella's outstanding sound system. "That's the 90's in a nutshell," said self-deprecating lead singer Stephen Malkmus after the band roared through "Unfair," an anthem of anti-corporate angst that makes frequent reference to Pavement's California roots. But their performance transcended nostalgia; the band seems fully recharged.
Gorillaz, who closed the festival, performed unveiled -- a change from the projection screen that virtually replaced the band members with cartoon characters on their first tour. Earlier in the day, Phoenix took a similarly low-key approach with their set because their video projectionist could not fly out of Europe due to flight delays related to the volcano eruption. Even though artist cancellations peppered the weekend's lineups, it also underscored the global reach of the festival's roster, particularly on its final day.
Other surprises on Sunday included a much-anticipated performance by Sly Stone and friends, which was rescheduled from the early evening to a later slot concurrent with Gorillaz. After more delays to their rescheduled set time, as if against all doubts, Sly arrived on stage in a blond wig, a policeman's uniform, and a black sequined jacket wrapped over his hunched shoulders like a cape. After cutting off the band, he delivered extended and relatively unintelligible rant, made reference to his having been kidnapped, then almost miraculously led his band through a handful of his signature hits, including "Stand!," "Hot Fun In The Summertime," and "Dance to the Music."
For those in the audience who were not aware of Sly's history of recent train-wreck performances, the show was no doubt a disappointment. He seemed to have no dexterity in his hands, and required frequent assistance adjusting his microphone and toggling keys on his synthesizer. But for those expecting the worst if anything at all, the set had its share of glorious moments when Sly and his band locked in and found their pocket.