Coachella 2017, Day 3: Kendrick Lamar and Hans Zimmer, variations on virtuoso

Kendrick Lamar (Photo by Greg Noire, courtesy of Coachella)
Kendrick Lamar (Photo by Greg Noire, courtesy of Coachella)

Veeder’s Day 3: Kendrick Lamar, Marshmello, Kehlani, Hans Zimmer, Kaytranada, Nao, Lil Uzi Vert, Whitney, Skepta

Weekend 1 at Coachella closed Sunday with a mixed bag of performances ranging from epic and extraordinary to mediocre and underwhelming. Legendary Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer conducted fan favorites on his first-ever tour — and in the process brought Pharrell Williams to his knees — while Kendrick Lamar brought the lawn to theirs, charging through a dynamite headlining showcase, and playing half of his 2-day-old album, “DAMN.”

Lamar owned the enormity of the main stage during his 70-minute set, broken up with guest stars performing one-offs, such as Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps,” Schoolboy Q’s “That Part,” and Future’s flute-trap “Mask Off.” Following a faux martial-arts video introduction painting the tutelage of “Kung Fu Kenny,” gi-clad Lamar came out as the “Fox News” snippet condemning the lyrics of his song “Alright” blared, then launched right into fresh banger “DNA” and the most commanding rap performance of the weekend.

Without a band or DJ in sight, Kendrick’s booming music was infused with much more distorted guitar and drum flourishes that gave it all more of a live feel, playing up the smart choice of rock sensibility over jazz to a sea of tens of thousands, and sounding like some of the horn melodies were swapped for guitar riffs, giving “untitled 02” more of an alt-rock vibe. He told the crowd he hadn’t performed at Coachella since the “good kid, m.A.A.d city” days of 2012 but that he’s got a lot more bangers now, the perfect segue into a energetic rendition of “King Kunta.” New material such as “ELEMENT” hit just as hard as “m.A.A.d city,” “Backseat Freestyle,” and “Alright,” which drew one of the biggest reactions of the set. He capped it all off with new single “HUMBLE,” as the masses all rapped “my left stroke just went viral” in unison, and returned for an encore of “LOVE.”

Here’s how the Sabbath refused to rest:

3:05 p.m. — In line at security check-in, a group of bros encouraged a fellow brah to chug from both his bottle of rum and a 2-liter Coke. The brah finished the rum, the crowd went wild, and then one of the bros said, “Heyyy … Peer pressure.”

3:18 p.m. — Security personnel tasked with providing announcements were using their megaphone’s CB handsets to amplify music from their phones, including Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” and Jibb’s “Chain Hang Low.”

3:36 p.m. — Backed by DJ Maximum and a BT telephone box off to the side, London’s grime stalwart Skepta strolled across the stage rapping choice selections from his latest album “Konnichiwa.” There’s nothing like raising your middle fingers in the air and dancing to anti-cop sentiment in the afternoon, right? His lightning-fast tongue flew through “Crime Riddim,” “Man,” “Numbers,” and “Shutdown,” with Young L.O.R.D. joining him for “It Ain’t Safe.” New single “No Security,” which he noted was his “f*cking anthem,” drew a huge response late in the set. Skepta was booked for last year’s fest but was unable to attend due to visa issues, so it was nice to finally see one of grime’s godfathers flex his flow.

4:19 p.m. — Over at the Outdoor Theatre, six-piece band Whitney closed out their set with “No Woman,” a perfect folk rock ray of sunshine on a sunny California afternoon.

4:45 p.m. — If the idea of getting “turnt up” on a Sunday afternoon struck your fancy and didn’t confuse you, Lil Uzi Vert‘s set in the Sahara tent was the likely option. He traipsed on stage gripping a huge silver chain then handed it off less than 15 seconds later, and brought out his jeweler as a special guest a few songs in to stand there and hold up the chain again. There isn’t anything about Lil Uzi Vert that isn’t derivative, from his flows to his beats to his attitude (he declared himself the “rap Marilyn Manson”), yet the crowd stretched out the back nearly to the market.

5:20 p.m. — British electro-soul singler Nao cruised through an engaging mix of funky and upbeat R&B with highlights coming from singles “Fool to Love” and “Bad Blood.”

6:31 p.m. — Kaytranada kept it lively over at the Sahara with a healthy mix off tracks from his album “99.9%” and his wealth of remixes. His dynamite house-y reworkings of Janet Jackson’s “If,” Missy Elliott’s “Sock It 2 Me,” Rihanna’s “Kiss It Better,” and Solange’s “Cranes in the Sky” grooved in spades as the sun coasted downward.

8:00 p.m. — “Good evening, Easter bunnies,” Hans Zimmer declared as he stood before an orchestra stacked with at least four dozen players, including a row of 16 singers lined up in back as they began with a medley from “Inception,” including the cues “Dream Is Collapsing” and “Mombasa.” They followed this with a cello concerto from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” causing such an uproar that Zimmer remarked that no one had ever received that level of applause for a cello concerto. It’s a curious sight to see thousands of people pumping their hands in the air to an orchestra.

8:22 p.m. — “Nants ingonyama bagithi baba,” boomed through the speakers as “The Lion King” medley of “Circle of Life / Under the Stars/ This Land” commenced with original singer Lebo M, sending joy through the crowd. Medleys from “Gladiator” and “The Dark Knight” came next, creating some of the richest soundscapes of the fest, and one of the most memorable experiences of the weekend. Pharrell joined the the mammoth ensemble for a cover of his song “Freedom,” which Zimmer said was “more important now than it ever has been.” At its close, Pharrell dropped and bowed before Zimmer, who heaped praise on the producer.

9:07 p.m. — Zimmer and Co. brought it full circle and closed with the “Inception” finale cue, “Time,” silencing the crowd as the main stage sound bled through the grounds. “Shut up, Lorde,” a girl said in passing. On Easter, no less.

9:31 p.m. — “How many of you have seen ‘Suicide Squad?'” Kehlani asked the crowd, and rewarded the lukewarm response with her contribution to the soundtrack, “Gangsta.” The 21-year-old singer also brought out G-Eazy to perform their new collaboration “Good Life” from “The Fate of the Furious,” as well as British rapper Stormzy for “Cigarettes & Cush,” but something about her placement here fell flat.

10:07 p.m. — Masked DJ Marshmello closed out the night in the Sahara, drawing one of the tent’s biggest crowds of the weekend, spilling backward past the vendor row toward the Do Lab and out in every direction. The stage show looked like Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road paired with pyrotechnics, and the enigmatic DJ coached everyone and give away the beat drops by announcing, “One, two, one-two-three-four.” Props to a man who can draw that many people against Kendrick Lamar.