By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Canadian alternative-rock group Arcade Fire closed the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Sunday with special guest Debbie Harry but deplored the festival’s growing amenities reserved for VIPs only.
Arcade Fire kicked off its set with “Reflektor,” the title song from last year’s album of the same name, and led into songs such as “”Flashbulb Eyes” and “Rebellion (Lies).”
“We’ve been coming here for many years now, so it’s an honor to be headlining,” said the band’s frontman, Win Butler.
But Butler took a moment on stage to criticize Coachella’s VIP area, saying “people are dreaming to get in there, but it super sucks in there, so don’t worry about it.”
The band then played its nostalgia-infused track “The Suburbs,” changing part of the lyrics to sing “in a field full of freaks and my friends,” eliciting cheers from the audience.
The band were later joined by Blondie singer Debbie Harry, who performed her classic 1979 hit “Hearts of Glass” with Arcade Fire’s frontwoman Regine Chassagne, and the band’s song “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).” Arcade Fire ended with “Wake Up,” joined by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Coachella, which began in 1999 as a festival of indie and alternative rock, has become one of the main attractions of the summer live music season. Headliners in recent years have included Jay Z, Snoop Dogg and Madonna.
It has also acquired the amenities Butler criticized. Along with celebrity attendees have come the VIP area, where guests were treated to pop-up food stalls from upscale Los Angeles restaurant such as Eveleigh, Baco Mercat and Sugarfish.
Outside of the festival itself, the party circuit has burgeoned, with many coming to Palm Springs just to attend the invitation-only events. This year’s parties included those hosted by retail outlet H&M, fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar and private member’s club Soho House, which holds a desert edition during the festival.
CALVIN HARRIS DRAWS CROWDS BUT NO GUESTS
The third and final day of Coachella’s first weekend also featured performances from British DJ Calvin Harris, singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey and rocker Beck.
Harris, who has been at the forefront of electronic dance music, drew the largest crowd of the day and played his hits including “Feels So Close,” “We Found Love” and “Summer.”
The DJ also played covers from other artists including Capital Cities, Major Lazer, Justice and The Killers, but opted not to include any special guests, who have become part of Coachella’s appeal for attendees.
When Harris last performed at Coachella in 2012, pop star Rihanna, who collaborated with the DJ on the dance floor anthem “We Found Love,” came out during his set to perform her vocals, but neither she nor the other vocalists on Harris’ tracks, including Ellie Goulding, turned up on Sunday.
Coachella has become known for its surprise element, delivering up moments such as rapper Snoop Dogg performing with a hologram of late rapper Tupac on stage in 2012.
This year’s headlining acts featured the much-anticipated reunion of Outkast on Friday, British rockers Muse on Saturday and Arcade Fire on Sunday, but all three were outdone by R&B singer Pharrell on the surprises front.
Pharrell brought up a host of stars, including Gwen Stefani, Snoop Dogg and Busta Rhymes. Rapper Nas also engaged some star power for his set on late Saturday as he performed his seminal album “Illmatic” on the 20th anniversary of its release, bringing in rappers Jay Z and Puff Daddy.
R&B singer Beyonce briefly popped onto stage during her sister Solange Knowles’ Saturday set to dance with the music.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Larry King)