Rumors of Outkast’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
The beloved hip-hop duo, whose 20th-anniversary reunion tour launched at Coachella last week with a debut set that garnered almost universally negative reviews, clearly paid attention and responded, with an immensely tweaked, far superior set to end the first day of the festival’s second weekend.
Though the twosome emerged in the same way as weekend one – in a giant, opaque cube that serves as the set’s centerpiece, launching into their frenetic hit “Bombs over Baghdad (B.O.B.)” the similarities immediately stopped: during weekend one, rappers Andre 3000 and Big Boi spent the better part of the first quarter of their set in the cube, essentially separating themselves from the audience not just with added distance but with an actual screen in between. Tonight, they only stayed in that box for a moment before coming out stage-front, strutting with an emboldened confidence light-years from the standoffish attitude that came through the first weekend.
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Andre 3000, especially, seemed like a man renewed: clad in a one-piece jumpsuit with a gigantic tag that read “For Sale” on one side and “Sold Out” on the other, he smiled gleefully through hits like “So Fresh, So Clean,” “Roses,” and “Hey Ya,” even as he sang it – to the audience, rather than facing away from them – with a bit of raw sarcasm seeping through.
And about those hits: the setlist was completely reinvented, with a mid-set solo segment from each rapper reduced by half and a complete swap out of some songs and reorganization of the order of others. That meant that there was no extended guest spot from the rapper Future, no dead-last “Hey Ya” to feel like an afterthought (instead, it was played mid-set – and reinvigorated the audience), and no violation of curfew, as there’d been the week before. Instead, the set actually ran short – a much smarter move that made the whole thing feel tight, taught, and ready for action.
If Outkast’s triumphant return hadn’t made the second weekend already stand out, that job would belong to an unlikely hero, Paul Westerberg, and the Replacements, who earlier in the night made the second stage roar thanks to a nearly set-long sit in from Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, who all but fronted the band for the night. As Westerberg laid back and played guitar on an onstage couch, claiming to have thrown his back out earlier in the week, Armstrong checked lyrics on a music stand, singing lead on the reunited ‘Mat’s “I’m in Trouble” and “Kiss Me On The Bus.”
Acolytes may cry heresy, but they’d be wrong: it was clear that Armstrong had absolute reverence for the material, and it was impossible to not hear Green Day’s strong sense of melody coming through the songs that had definitively influenced him. By the end of the set, Westerberg had joined him in the center of the stage, howling through “Can’t Hardly Wait” and “IOU,” the twosome sharing a mic for a moment that felt like vintage Coachella magic: organic, unexpected, and stunning.