It’s absolutely astonishing to me that, when St. Vincent took to the Outdoor Theatre stage at Coachella on Friday evening, I could still walk right up to the front and have a reasonable amount of personal space.
I mean, come the fuck on. Annie Clarke is at the top of her game right now and St. Vincent might well prove to be one of the most important acts of this decade. History will prove me right on this one.
It’s all the more frustrating because her set was magnificent, and my personal Friday highlight. The creepy animation that flanks Clarke and her band only increases the choreographed sense of sinister wonder she generates.
She goes in heavy early on with the new material from last year’s phenomenal Masseducation, opening with “Sugarboy,” and then “Pills” the meat in a staggering “Los Ageless”/“New York” sandwich.
Pop morphs into industrial, rock & roll to electronica, as Nine Inch Nails, Kraftwerk, Devo and Björk all pop up as valid reference points. “Cruel” and “Cheerleader” from 2011’s Strange Mercy are unleashed, before the closing “Slow Disco.” Clarke says, “Thank you, Coachella,” and then she’s gone. All too soon.
The vast majority of Coachella-goers are far more interested in SZA than they are in French proggy electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre, and that’s really not surprising at all. This isn't music you hear a lot on the radio, and certainly not on SNL. So the crowd was very thin when Jarre started. But when he got going, he pulled people over like a Euro-electronica Pied Piper.
Jarre’s crazy laser spectacle deserves a sizable audience. For four decades, his innovative combinations of sound and vision have made his name one to cite during conversations with music-loving friends.
Making his Coachella debut, Jarre set his bar high early on, and never let it drop. Initially playing his keys behind a giant screen beaming a revolving D cube on the crowd, this opened up to reveal the maestro himself, arms raised in triumph.
And why shouldn’t he celebrate? He was playing the electronica game back in 1972, 10 years before Juan Atkins and Rick Davis formed Cybotron in Detroit. Sure, the handful of festival attendees who are over 35 all gathered at the Outdoor Theatre for Jarre, but there were plenty of younger devotees, who know their history, here as well.
When Jarre’s career began, he had to create his own instruments because his thinking was so far ahead of ’70s technology. He has no such problems in the modern world, but 2016’s Oxygène 3, the most recent in the series that began with Oxygène in ’76, proved that he’s lost none of his desire to be a creative pioneer. We got all of that at Coachella on Friday night.
When the lineup for this year’s festival was initially revealed, Jarre’s name stood out as an oddity. But damn, the man shone.