Coachella cli­max had to be Be­y­oncé

USA TODAY International Edition - - LIFE - Bruce Fessier

When pun­dits look back at next year’s 20th an­niver­sary of Coachella, they’ll re­mem­ber 2018 as the year of Be­y­oncé.

DJ Khaled re­named the fes­ti­val “Bey­chella” in an an­nounce­ment dur­ing her head­line per­for­mance Satur­day night, and fans were still buzzing Sun­day over the Queen Bey’s re­mark­able set.

Jerome Clement of Los An­ge­les said he didn’t come to the fes­ti­val as a big Be­y­oncé fan. But he be­came one.

“See­ing her set up her per­for­mance like that, it was like a story un­fold­ing,” he said. “It was a high­light of my year. It was like a Su­per Bowl per­for­mance.”

“Be­y­oncé was a pow­er­house,” said Richae Kater of San Fran­cisco, who was at­tend­ing her fifth Coachella fes­ti­val. “She killed it. I’ve been com­ing to Coachella for years, and I’ve never seen a per­for­mance like that.”

Be­y­oncé, who talked of plan­ning her multi-di­men­sional, multi-genre pro­gram for more than a year af­ter can­cel­ing her 2017 ap­pear­ance be­cause of her preg­nancy, per­formed al­most two hours with guest ap­pear­ances by her sis­ter, Solange, her hus­band, Jay-Z, and her orig­i­nal group, Destiny’s Child, right up to the 1 a.m. cur­few.

Feast for the senses

But not every­one was im­pressed by Coachella’s first black fe­male head­liner. Ri­ley Mor­ri­son of He­lena, Mont., said she liked The Weeknd on Fri­day and Post Malone on Satur­day but thought Be­y­oncé’s set was over­whelm­ing with its scores of singers, dancers and orches­tral mu­si­cians. The fes­ti­val is “a lit­tle in­tense,” Mor­ri­son said.

Lu­cille Mered­ith of Jer­sey City, added, “It was good. I’m not a huge Be­y­oncé fan. I came mainly for the ex­pe­ri­ence. Over­all, it’s what I ex­pected — a lot bet­ter than I ex­pected.”

Sun­day’s lineup fea­tured highly an­tic­i­pated hip-hop ap­pear­ances by Cardi B, the only woman to have more si­mul­ta­ne­ous top 10 sin­gles on Bill­board’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart than Be­y­oncé, with five ear­lier this year, and Mi­gos, a sen­sa­tion of the 2017 Coachella, with sur­prise guest ap­pear­ances on mul­ti­ple stages.

Cardi B, show­ing a baby bump in a be­jew­eled, all-white jump­suit, drew a crowd that filled the Coachella Stage field like a head­liner for a set that was sched­uled to be just 35 min­utes in­stead of the usual 45 to 60 min­utes. She gave an ap­par­ent ex­pla­na­tion when she said, “I got preg­nant just like that!”

But it didn’t stop her from singing and mov­ing sug­ges­tively, ac­com­pa­nied by more than a dozen singers, dancers, guest rap­pers and aeri­al­ists. She ap­peared to be blast­ing money at the crowd as she sang her new sin­gle, Money Bag, which she in­tro­duced last week on The Tonight Show Star­ring Jimmy Fal­lon.

“Let me tell you some­thing,” she told the crowd. “If God puts you some­where, He’s the only one who can take you off.”

The evening fea­tured com­pet­ing twi­light sets by the rock band Por­tu­gal. The Man, which re­cently won a Grammy for Feel It Still, and Ka­masi Wash­ing­ton, the jazz sax­o­phon­ist who made a name for him­self play­ing with Grammy Award­win­ning rap­per Ken­drick La­mar.

But the most an­tic­i­pated set of the night was by the rap head­liner, Eminem. At one time com­pared to Elvis Pres­ley for his pi­o­neer­ing role as a white man in a pre­dom­i­nantly black art form, Eminem has re­jected any pos­si­ble des­ig­na­tion as a hip-hop king and was just one of many guest rap­pers with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg at the 2012 Coachella. But af­ter Be­y­oncé opened her set in elab­o­rate garb and em­braced her role as an R&B queen, fans won­dered whether Eminem might step up in his first Coachella head­lin­ing show.

Christie Mar­garis of Los An­ge­les, who was wear­ing a blouse with Eminem im­ages on it, said she didn’t think the real Mar­shall Mathers would be able to top Be­y­oncé’s pro­duc­tion, which she said “blew us away.” But she said it would be hard to choose be­tween Be­y­oncé and Eminem.

“He’s been rel­e­vant for 20 years, and he’s go­ing to make it spe­cial be­cause he doesn’t tour very of­ten,” she said.

Art and safety

The fes­ti­val opened with con­cern over the pos­si­ble use of drones by Indio, Calif., po­lice, but the de­vices be­came more of an artis­tic el­e­ment than an op­pres­sive se­cu­rity tool. The 360-de­gree aug­mented re­al­ity show in The Antarc­tic dome fol­lowed a drone through a vor­tex into oth­er­worldly spa­ces, ac­com­pa­nied by mu­sic by the elec­tronic duo ODESZA — who also hap­pened to pre­cede Eminem on the Coachella stage.

The punk band FIDLAR also did a song about want­ing to be a drone.

FIDLAR was an ap­pro­pri­ate band for this last Coachella be­fore its 20th an­niver­sary. Singer/gui­tarist Elvis Kuehn and drum­mer Max Kuehn are the sons of the key­board player for the pi­o­neer­ing Long Beach punk band T.S.O.L., the first band ever booked by the Gold­en­voice pro­duc­ers. They per­formed songs about their strug­gles with drug and al­co­hol ad­dic­tion, such as Al­co­holic and 40 Ounce On Re­peat, as fans slam­danced and crowd-surfed, just as other fans have done to the mu­sic of T.S.O.L. for 40 years.

JAY CALDERON/ THE DESERT SUN

Cardi B shows a baby bump in her all-white jump­suit as she draws a crowd as big as a head­liner would.

Be­y­oncé gave the Coachella crowd all it could want with an al­most two-hour head­lin­ing, home­com­ing ex­trav­a­ganza. “I’ve been com­ing to Coachella for years, and I’ve never seen a per­for­mance like that,” one fan said. ZOË MEY­ERS/DESERT SUN

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