INDIO, Calif (Hollywood Reporter) - The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival ended its 11th year on a playful note Sunday as former Clash members Mick Jones and Paul Simonon joined headliners Gorillaz to wrap up a day that also saw the welcome return of reunited indie-rock heroes Pavement.
In the past, Gorillaz have come off as a musical cartoon, the artists behind the curtain while video images fit for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim hour would fill screens. But this time, the group was out front and with friends that also included Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea, soul legend Bobby Womack and ‘90s rap-pop group De La Soul, which had performed earlier in the day on the same main stage.
Frontman Damon Albarn of Blur was in high spirits as the material ran from novelty dance-club fun to a bit more serious pondering. Womack turned up for “Stylo,” off the group’s latest release, “Plastic Beach,” and also at set’s end for an acoustic “Cloud of Unknowing.” The group also offered the album’s title track, which lifts from “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” the legendary pre-rap jazz poem by another Coachella weekend performer, Gil-Scott Heron, and De La Soul joined in on “Feel Good Inc.”
There still was plenty of video imagery and sonic tricks, but the band showed it can work as a genuine live act, more party-minded than wowing, yet capturing the feel of much of Sunday in particular at the festival.
Debuting his new solo-oriented band Atoms for Peace, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke drew an audience as massive as any of the previous days’ top acts, delivering numbers from his 2006 solo album, “The Eraser.” Most of the material was off-center, rhythmic and probing, though anchored by his piano or guitar. He dedicated the song “Atoms for Peace” to Pavement and also offered versions of Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place” and an acoustic take on “Airbag.”
Pavement, reunited after a decade apart, are still a bunch of regular guys -- no star turns here, thank you. The superb hour-plus set included such still-winning tunes as “Shady Lane,” “Summer Babe” and “Cut Your Hair,” hook-enriched and bolstered by guitar workouts. The tragedy is that Pavement was ahead of the radio-programing learning curve and never received the airplay garnered by those that followed. The band was focused and tight but might have even come off stronger on a smaller stage or even in one of the tents.
French band Phoenix, looking as though it’s surely the next big thing, drew an enthusiastic audience that included Jay-Z and wife Beyonce with entourage. The group’s surging power-pop is uplifting, and the masses filled half the Empire Polo Field for one of the weekend’s largest crowds.
In the Mojave Tent, the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas was very rock star, holding court as fans packed in and chanted his name before he took the stage. In the midafternoon, Mute Math’s electronic-dapped rock held sway as well.
An expected early-evening performance by Sly Stone was delayed, and he didn’t appear until much later that night. The set was said to be chaotic, though some raved about seeing the soul music icon. Other standouts in the tent included the R&B shots of Florence and the Machine, and the quite-inviting pop blend of Mayer Hawthorne and the County, all in suits despite the desert heat.