NEW YORK, April 17, (Agencies): Lady Gaga debuted a R&B-tinged love song Saturday as she headlined the Coachella festival, where the pop diva cast herself as sensual rather than sensational.
The first woman in a decade to top the lineup at the premier music event, Lady Gaga unleashed an action-packed spectacle of acrobatic choreography that culminated in confetti, fireballs and fireworks on her dance anthem “Bad Romance.”
Gaga seized upon the spotlight to introduce a new song, “The Cure,” that is built off an unadorned R&B rhythm before rising into a pop chorus with the lines, “If I can’t find the cure, I’ll fix you with my love.”
She released the song commercially as she left Coachella in the California desert, marking her first new music since her latest album “Joanne” came out in October.
Coachella offered a preview of the global tour the pop superstar will launch in August for “Joanne,” an album that brought a more classic pop and even country sound to the 31-year-old artist long associated with synthpop.
Gaga made clear at Coachella that her old spirit remained undiminished. On “John Wayne,” one of her most country-driven songs in which she admits an attraction to rugged masculinity, Gaga paradoxically sang astride a human pyramid of her diverse crew of male dancers.
Yet for a singer once talked about as much for her outrageous outfits as her songs, she stepped back and put the emphasis on her music — giving herself space to show off her glowing, rich voice on tracks such as “The Edge of Glory.”
Her biggest fashion message may have come as she played piano. She struggled to take off her sweater mid-song, in an endearing display of authenticity.
Lady Gaga played her first Coachella after original headliner Beyonce canceled on doctors’ orders as she expects twins.
One of the most lucrative events on the global cultural calendar, Coachella takes place over back-to-back three-day weekends with identical lineups.
In a Coachella hallmark, Saturday saw a slew of surprise performers — delighting fans who avidly posted to social media.
The rapper Future, who recently made history with back-to-back albums debuting at number one on the US chart, drew cheers when he brought to stage Migos, the Atlanta trio behind the hit “Bad and Boujee.”
But an even bigger name soon came on — rap superstar Drake, a sometime collaborator with Future, who turned the crowd into a sea of waving arms as he performed his hit “Fake Love.”
Migos then crossed the lawn to make a cameo with DJ Snake, the successful but largely behind-the-scenes force behind mega-hits such as “Lean On.”
The French DJ pulled off a second surprise as Lauryn Hill walked on, singing the Fugees emblematic song “Killing Me Softly.”
Bon Iver, once a crowd favorite with indie folk tunes such as “Skinny Love,” brought to stage the band’s turn into deep experimentation in a set of loop effects and references to numerological riddles from its latest album, “22, A Million.”
Frontman Justin Vernon performed in headphones at a soundboard but by the end of the set brought the crowd into a frenzy as he knelt before his sound pedals and clamped aggressively onto his electric guitar’s bridge as abstract images flashed on screen.
While Lady Gaga toned down her outfits, one artist who embraced costumes was Roisin Murphy. The Irish trip-hop singer took the stage with her face covered by a mask made of interjoined dolls and later carried over her head a faceless, zebra-colored dummy.
If Coachella handed out fashion awards, one could also go to frontman Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest, the prolific indie rockers with a unique talent to work songs down to quiet and back up to intensity.
The 24-year-old Toledo, long pictured as a scraggly younger, donned a tight, sky-blue suit with a black shirt and necktie.
INDIO, United States: When Koen Van Der Wardt was 14, his parents moved with him from their native Netherlands to rural Norway, longing for nature. His musical awakening was an unintended consequence.
As the frontman and principal songwriter of the band Klangstof, Van Der Wardt conjures up the dark atmospherics of rural Norway in guitar rock that breaks free from traditional song structure.
He was kicking off Coachella on Friday, becoming the first Dutch act to play the leading music festival that takes place in the desert of southern California.
Now 24, Van Der Wardt recalls growing up in The Netherlands listening to electronic dance music like other Dutch preteens. In Norway, he said, he spent his first year engrossed in only one album — Radiohead’s “OK Computer,” the English rockers’ seminal 1997 transformation into digital experimentation.
He first picked up a guitar in Norway simply out of boredom. But he gradually came to appreciate his parents’ decision to move.
“It was very inspirational to have no pressure from the outside world that you usually have when you live in a city or live in a country with a lot of people,” Van Der Wardt told AFP before a pre-Coachella rehearsal at a Los Angeles studio.
“Norway just makes you feel that you don’t have to care about anything around you,” he said, “because there isn’t much around other than beautiful nature.”
Although the music bears the clear influence of Radiohead, Van Der Wardt’s high-pitched, melody-resistant vocals and Klangstof’s Nordic sensibility also bring to mind the Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Ros and, to a lesser extent, the earlier era of progressive rock.
Klangstof — the name, so evocative of the band’s sound, is a portmanteau between the Norwegian word for “echo” and Dutch for “dust” — had its break when it uploaded “Hostage,” a bleak song about personal confinement.
The song was spotted by David Dann, founder of label Mind of a Genius, who quickly signed the band. “Hostage” became the starting point for Klangstof’s debut album “Close Eyes to Exit,” released last year.
Van Der Wardt said he focused on creating an ambience on the album — reinforced by vaguely futuristic cover art — and sang only where he thought the voice built the mood.
“I got kind of fed up with sitting down and writing verses and choruses. I thought that was a bit boring,” he said.
“For me it was always about having a lot of cool sounds instead of having a catchy hook.”
If Coachella’s sunshine and scanty outfits seem a disconcerting match for Klangstof, Van Der Wardt is hardly gloomy as a person, with an easygoing smile and constant laugh.
“I always felt like I put all of the bad emotions into the music, and as soon as I’m done writing music and I’m on the road or living life, I actually feel like a pretty happy person,” he said.
“People always expect to have very depressed musicians on stage and when they come to me after the show, they’re like, ‘Huh? What was going on there? You were dancing, you were happy, you were screaming.’”
Van Der Wardt expressed pride at being the first Dutch act at Coachella, but said he was barely thinking about it.
“Music isn’t a nationalist thing. Music is for everyone and it doesn’t know any borders. In any case, I don’t feel like I’m ‘the hippest export product from The Netherlands’ or anything,” he quipped with a laugh.
After Coachella, Klangstof will play more festival dates and open on US tours for The Flaming Lips and Miike Snow.
In a fitting sign of the band’s origins, the headliner Friday at Coachella is Radiohead.
“I’m definitely going to try to see if I can get a little high-five going backstage,” Van Der Wardt said.