April 19, 2011 / 3:06 AM / 7 years ago

Kanye West saves day, reputation at Coachella

INDIO, California (Hollywood Reporter) - Kanye West doesn’t have the best track record as a festival attraction: remember the ill-planned performance at Bonnaroo 2008 when he emerged hours late to perform a lighting-show-reliant set as the sun came up to a bitter, rapidly-emptying corral of fans.

So, his festival-closing set at Coachella on Sunday was under a fairly intense microscope: Another major screw-up in such a high-profile environment would shred his reputation.

Thankfully, that was far from the case. Starting just 15 minutes after his scheduled 10:30 start time (the blame for which rests squarely on other acts earlier in the day), West delivered a grandiose, theatrical performance destined to be remembered as one of the great hip-hop sets of all time.

Every moment of the carefully-choreographed set was larger than life, beginning with West’s entrance. He rose above the audience via an enormous crane that swung him over nearly the entirety of the main stage’s gigantic swath of real estate while blasting through “Dark Fantasy.”

The high-intensity start was followed by a run-through of nearly all of West’s hits (“Stronger,” “Gold Digger,” “Through The Wire”) divided into a cinematic, three-part arc that was mostly special-guest free and hit surprising emotional resonance mid-set, when West declared his Coachella performance the most important to him since his mother’s unexpected death in 2007. The heft of that statement carried through the performance’s end, when West nearly teared up during the poignant “Hey, Mama.”

West’s strength felt needed on a day of mixed performances. Other than a solid, stoned main-stage set from “Black and Yellow” rapper Wiz Khalifa, not much resonated with the sold-out (if exceedingly tired) crowd. A much-hyped reunion of Canadian rockers Death From Above 1979 turned out to be more noisy than worth making noise about, and LA’s cute Best Coast were just that, no more. Even the National — the moody, dark rockers who seem to be on the verge of a breakthrough — had a hard time connecting, with many fans sitting or sleeping rather than appearing engaged.

Standing above the fray in the evening were Duran Duran, out to re-prove their hipness after years as a state-fair mainstay, and Coachella veterans Chromeo, a Palestinian/Israeli dance-pop duo. Both delivered different versions of 1980s-style, synth-heavy, interaction-encouraged pop (though only one actually helped invent the genre).

The Strokes drew a monstrous crowd, while PJ Harvey attracted considerably fewer fans to a drab, if well-intentioned set that found her playing everything from auto-harp to acoustic guitar.

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