Wonders never cease, but I venture to say that any attendant of Coachella’s Friday night headliner showcases could have ever predicted that in a lifetime, the likes of Leonard Cohen, Morrissey and Paul McCartney, would share a bill at the annual blockbuster music fest in Indio on the same night.

Overall, Friday’s (earlier) roster registered with greater performances, especially on the main stage. Franz Ferdinand was the most Beatle-ish outfit of the day, with the Scottish band’s catchy and thump-happy songs at sunset inspiring the most dancing with abandon outside of the tents on the other side of the field. The southern metallic blues of the Black Keys dug deep for earthy grooves, while the art-rock leaning ambitions of Airborne Toxic Event made one wonder if it could become the next Arcade Fire-like breakout, and the smart-and-hooky riffing rock of Brooklyn’s We Are Scientists carried the mid-afternoon.

Around 7:45pm, a respectful hush fell around last year’s man and the drum he’ll never mend as the 74-year-old Godfather of Gloom, Leonard Cohen, worked his magic over Indio on the Outdoor stage for the first of the night’s legends. Gracefully in a suit and fedora, the veteran regally lulled the sweating masses into a contemplative, Zen-like daze with classics such as “Everybody Knows,” “Dance Me to the End of Love,” “Hallelujah” and “The Future.” That he thanked us for our “kind attention” at his set’s culmination gave me a chuckle as I wiped away my predictable tears and saw the same manner of those around me.

Following Cohen’s magical set, Morrissey, the Frank Sinatra of ’80s Brit rock, was, as is his wont, ever-snarky, and railed against the “burning animals” his vegetarian nose could sense — the hot dogs, hamburgers, tacos and such for sale –quitting midway through his scheduled set during “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others,” but nonetheless the crooner regrouped, and returned to deliver the goods, such as the cheeky “Girlfriend in a Coma,” the glide of “Ask Me,” “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris,” off of the recent Years of Refusal, and the churning Smiths’ classic, “How Soon Is Now?”

But, alas, it was, naturally, Paul McCartney and his fantastic four-man band, who would set fire to the Coachella Stage with a near-three-hour extravaganza that intermixed many Beatles classics such as “Eleanor Rigby,” “Live and Let Die,” “Blackbird,” “Let It Be,” with a bit of Wings (“Band on the Run”) and two tender dedications to his late wife and collaborator, Linda McCartney. The 66 year-old’s midnight singalong to “Hey Jude,” of course, will be hard for future Coachella headliners to match in emotion, significance, stamina and sheer majesty.


Silversun Pickups also performed a tight set, shortly before the McCartney juggernaut. Having just released the well-received Swoon and single “Panic Switch,” I was happy to watch the Silver Lake band enjoy itself and delight the crowd with their easy-to-love fuzz, and recognize that indeed, as the charts have spoken, (debuting near Miley Cyrus?), the “Lazy Eye” hit makers are edging closer to the big time.

Akron’s Black Keys, one of my current favorite blues-rock arbitors, brought some impressive Midwest gusto and charmed the pants and beers off of a teeming crowd of folks angling to push up front to be closer to greatness.

On to Saturday!

–Aishah Roberts, with Carrie Alison