There was a fair amount of mystery heading into Sunday night’s (April 17) co-headlining performance from The Weeknd and Swedish House Mafia at Coachella 2022. Who would play first? Would the two acts play together? If so, what? How does a co-headlining set even work?
Ultimately the answer to everything was rather simple: Swedish House Mafia occupied the first 30 or so minutes of the slot, which began 30 minutes late at 10:50 p.m. rather than its scheduled 10:20 p.m. start time. The Weeknd then took over the stage — outfitted with a giant ring forged from LED lights — and fire hosed the massive crowd with a litany of his own hits before the two acts closed out the show with their collaborative track “Moth To A Flame.” Easy? For sure. Effective? Absolutely.
The straightforward nature of this format extended to the fact that the show didn’t include any special guests, who by this point have pretty much become standard operating procedure at Coachella, particularly for a headlining set. (See: Friday’s headliner Harry Styles bringing out Shania Twain and Saturday’s headliner Billie Eilish bringing out Damon Albarn.) Instead, both Swedish House Mafia and The Weeknd just handled things on their own, a particularly reasonable move given that neither act was performing a full show. (The pair replaced Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) as Sunday night headliners after he dropped out of Coachella earlier this month.)
“Allow us to reintroduce ourselves,” Swedish House Mafia’s Axwell requested as SHM’s set launched, nodding to the fact that the group has been largely absent from the live space in the States since their 2013 farewell tour, after which they broke up before reuniting last year. This weekend marked two major milestones in the group’s comeback, between headlining Coachella and the release of their debut LP, Paradise Again, which dropped on Friday (April 15.)
While a lot has changed in the electronic music landscape since Swedish House Mafia first headlined Coachella in 2012, what was immediately clear amongst the packed crowd was that their classic tracks function as well now as they did when they dropped during the EDM heyday of the early 2010s. This show didn’t include the stage spectacle of confetti, pyro and lasers that SHM shows are beloved for, but there were still tens of thousands of people screaming along to “Save The World” and Don’t You Worry Child” with the same gusto as crowds did back in the day and for those few minutes it felt like a glorious return to 2012 .
And of course the show was also the first time any of the new Swedish House Mafia music was played live — a major test for their new sound. During the show the guys — Steve Angello, Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso — played remixes of their massive hits “Greyhound” and “Miami 2 Ibiza” early in the set, oscillating back and forth between proven smashes and the new material. While many fans probably wished that they would have just let the beloved clasiscs play out in their entirety, edited versions made more space for new house and techno oriented songs like “It Gets Better” and “Can U Feel It.” The set later veered into some Justice-adjacent electro, the hip-hop leaning “Frankenstein,” and the Sting-sampling “Redlight,” a track that went off particularly hard throughout the massive field and proved that their new stuff is highly effective and will likely become more so as audiences get to know it better.
And then it was The Weeknd’s turn.
Appearing in a black t-shirt, black military jacket and black gloves, the solo artist took over the massive stage with ease and charisma, launching his part of the show with “Sacrifice,” most likely because it’s a track on which Axwell has a writing credit. The trio stayed onstage for this song, then exited before The Weeknd launched into a series of hits including “I Can’t Feel My Face” and “Blinding Lights.” The latter track proved hugely effective, with audiences thrilled to finally hear it live, given that The Weeknd has had few opportunities to perform it for an audience after dropping it during the pandemic.
The singer’s voice sounded fantastic and he seemed at ease and confident onstage, demonstrating the extent that he’s grown as a live performer since headlining Coachella in 2018. He wound down his solo portion of the show with a truncated version of “Save Your Tears,” before Swedish House Mafia — still dressed in all black leather — returned to the stage for the show (and festival) closing “Moth To a Flame.”
For some, this pairing may have been a weird one. On the surface, the two acts didn’t have a whole lot in common beyond the same manager, Sal Slaiby, and their one collaborative track. Ahead of the show there was speculation about whether or not one act would draw more fans to the mainstage, or if Swedish House Mafia’s comeback might get a boost from this major crossover moment with The Weeknd’s fanbase.
But a casual poll of fans leaving the show found the crowd split fairly evenly, with some saying they were into Swedish House Mafia, some saying they were feeling The Weeknd and many copping to loving both equally. Which, for a non-traditional shared set from two acts whose music doesn’t share much sonic DNA, ultimately felt like a best case scenario result.