We share with you one of our all-time favorite reviews below (I did not write it) and it is with my deepest regret that I did not attend Coachella (ducks Prince’s cane) and may never live it down.
Enjoy the review regardless:
The superstar’s tremendous performance now stands as the greatest in Coachella history.
If you weren’t there – if you stayed home because the lineup just didn’t seem so great, because the triple-digit temps would just be too much, because you curiously lack an appreciation for what a masterful showman Prince continues to be 30 years on – well, this all may seem like hyperbole.
But trust me when I say that at 5 a.m., after a gruelingly paced yet overall magnificent Day 2 of the ninth Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, hyperbole doesn’t come easy. Correctly spelling hyperbole barely comes easy.
Know, then, that this veteran of the annual bash (caught every day of it) is not just blowing smoke when he makes this seemingly outrageous claim:
Prince’s brilliantly conceived, surprise-filled, utterly astounding set before an estimated 50,000 people Saturday night at the Empire Polo Field in Indio stands as the single greatest performance in Coachella history.
Better than Rage Against the Machine last year.
Better than Radiohead/Pixies in 2004.
Better, in fact, than anything else you care to name. It was not merely awesome. Try colossal.
Desert Jeff would add that the little giant’s slippery but mighty rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep” – much more loosely rearranged compared to his tear through Foo Fighters’ “Best of You” at the Super Bowl last year – is the greatest five minutes in Coachella history.
Riveting though that moment was, I’ve got at least three others that top it: 1) a positively sick rip through “Controversy,” highly unexpected but absolutely fitting for our times … 2) a hearty, take-’em-to-church reading of “Come Together,” John Lennon’s all-embracing cry, here intended to inspire people to usher in “a new golden age” free from debate … 3) and the final dozen minutes, when Prince pushed on past 1 a.m., first with “Purple Rain,” glorious as ever, then with an ecstatic “Let’s Go Crazy.”
He also dusted off “1999,” complete with point-reinforcing “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb?” finish. He reminded that he still knows how to get randy via “Cream” (”you’re filthy-cute and baby you know it”) and “U Got the Look.” He concocted a career-overview set perfectly enhanced by a shimmying warm-up workout featuring Morris Day and Jerome Benton from the Time on “The Bird” and “Jungle Love” and Sheila E. on “The Glamorous Life” and later included obscurities (a thickly churning “Anotherloverholenyohead”) and early signposts like “I Feel for You,” his tune but a bigger hit for Chaka Khan (who I half-expected to see come out).
Then there’s his phenomenal guitar playing, which (again, no hyperbole) is second only to Hendrix in its feral skill, constant inventiveness and make-it-look-easy swagger. He remains the most crucial parts of his forebears – Little Richard, James Brown, George Clinton, above all Jimi and Sly Stone – rolled together into one tremendous talent.
All that – nearly two hours worth of unparalleled genius, actually, much of it fighting uphill against traditional Coachellan lethargy – and still he looked as though he had at least another hour or more of killer playing left in him.
Talk about “Sly gonna take you higher,” as Prince mentioned in the legends-saluting “Musicology” – as far as Coachella is concerned, this galvanizing set may be as close to the euphoric utopia still lingering in the hippie air since Sly and the Family Stone’s time at Woodstock that the fest may ever achieve.
I’m telling ya, I heard some fantastic stuff out here all throughout Saturday. Portishead, for starters – stunningly cinematic, the revived English trio was downright hypnotic – another return, like the Verve’s robust performance Friday night, that proved far more compelling in person than on paper.
Kraftwerk’s old-school computer-world display may have arrived from Germany unchanged – but it seemed to wow first-timers all over again. The fiery rebellion-now rhymes and polyrhythmic electro beats of Sri Lankan-born Brit M.I.A. in the enormo Sahara tent were so rabidly anticipated it drew a fire-hazard crowd like hasn’t been seen since Madonna’s brief and ballyhooed appearance two Coachellas ago.
And I haven’t even mentioned what a marvelous multi-culti parade sprawled out well before the scorching sun set, what with Cafe Tacvba, DeVotchka and the wild bashers of Man Man turning in standout sets. “One nación, muchachos,” Tacvba lead singer Ruben Albarran proclaimed, celebrating the diversity spread out before him just as the band’s music would for the hour that followed. (Lots more about these performances and others still to come on Soundcheck. Keep checking back throughout Sunday and Monday and on into the rest of the week, no doubt, for updates and my annual Kill List.)
It all added up to one of the stronger single days Coachella has ever served up, and it throws down a huge challenge before Roger Waters to turn in an equally jaw-dropping Pink Floyd experience on Sunday. I suspect that will be immense and incredible in a completely different way, but I doubt it can top it.
“From now on,” the peerless superstar announced, about to exit, “this is Prince’s house.” And nothing – nothing at all – is apt to come anywhere near the level of greatness he can conjure with just the right pose or overcome facial expression or expert sneak-attack solo. (The camera work capturing all of this, by the way, was so spot-on, the entire performance begs to be released on DVD much sooner than decades later in our lifetimes.)
In short, it was stupendous, truly the moment when Coachella became, as he insisted, “the coolest place on Earth.” I hate this cliche but sometimes cliches are so true: They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.
Prince showed those in attendence last night that no one does a show like Prince. No. One.