The Best Coachella Performances Of All-Time
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Coachella’s history of putting on the country’s biggest live music event spans over two decades. With 20-plus years of performances to choose from, its hard to identify the best-of-the-best. Here at TBA, we’ve highlighted some of the best Coachella performances that are definitely worth revisiting before you head to the desert of Indio, CA this year.
Coachella 2020 Tickets
Weekend 1 tickets to Coachella are already sold out on the primary market, though folks can still register for Weekend 2 presale at the official festival website. Miss out on buying passes completely? Check out our ticket-buying guide to find out all the different methods of acquiring tickets. You can also head here to start shopping on SeatGeek.
Rage Against The Machine
If Coachella had a godfather, Rage Against The Machine would be the chosen ones. Rage performed at the very first Coachella in 1999, reunited at the 2007 gathering, and are set to headline this year’s edition of the festival, too. Their 1999 performance is a testament to true punk rock. The band wasted no time getting to their set, strutting on stage and kicking into “Testify” without saying a word. In fact, frontman Zack de la Rocha didn’t say a word in between songs, delivering one hit after the other. Despite being sick and fighting off laryngitis that night, his vocal performance was nothing short of sick (the good kind.) They hit the ground running with “Know Your Enemy,” Bulls On Parade,” and “Guerrilla Radio,” performing a gritty, grunge-tastic set. With two decades of Coachellas gone by, we’re excited to see what the band brings to the main stage in 2020.
There’s no way you can talk about iconic Coachella performances without highlighting Queen Bey. After she had to cancel her 2017 appearance, she took the throne in 2018 as a headliner (the first black female headliner, might we add.) Her performance packed a fierce punch, with crowd pleasers like “Crazy In Love” and “Freedom.” Special guest appearances from Destiny’s Child and Solange kicked the already spectacular show up a few notches.
Beyoncé’s performance was so sensational that the interwebs quickly dubbed it “Beychella.” Her film HOMECOMING premiered on Netflix last year, documenting the daunting creative process that led up to the iconic event. While we twiddle our thumbs in anticipation of her next big musical career move, we can look back at how much sweat, tears, and girl power the pop powerhouse put into this one sole performance.
Daft Punk delivered a punchy, cinematic hour and fifteen minute show under the Sahara Tent at the 2006 Coachella for the books. It is cited often by musicians, critics, and festival goers alike as one of the best Coachella performances of all time.The mysterious helmet-clad duo hadn’t performed live in a hot minute, so their set was highly anticipated. It wasn’t until they set foot in the desert and hit the soundboard that everyone knew how legendary their set would be.
“It felt like it had been storyboarded,” recalled Coachella co-founder Paul Tollett. “Like every minute must have been thought about for hours, or days.”
While there isn’t much high-quality live footage of their performance, those who saw it firsthand can still reminisce over just how magical it was. And even though the electronic supergroup won’t be playing this year, we can always keep our fingers crossed for next year.
Kanye West’s 2011 Coachella performance was ahead of its time, but that’s nothing new for the famed rapper. Drenched in autotune in the best way possible, West gave a memorable, artistically-charged stage performance. Highly choreographed numbers, artful lighting design, and West’s signature boss-mode energy made for a remarkable moment in Coachella history. West included nods to the late Michael Jackson throughout, and delivered hits from his career, all the way back to his early works like Late Registration.
West has had a 13 year relationship with the festival, performing at Coachella in 2006, 2011, 2015, 2016, and most recently in 2019 with his Sunday Service Choir. While West isn’t scheduled to play in the desert this time around, we hope his frequent performances at the festival continue.
Prince gave a hauntingly beautiful performance at the 2008 edition of Coachella. What stood out most from his set was his incredibly poignant and stunning rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep.” His cover quickly became Coachella folklore, as there was no footage of it to be found. That wasn’t until Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke granted permission to The Artist Formerly Known As Prince to release the live recording to the public and let it live online in all its ghostly glory.
“Well, tell him to unblock it,” Yorke said in a 2005 interview with the Associated Press. “It’s our…song.”
And the rest is history, folks. Little did those who were standing in the middle of the desert in 2008 know that Prince’s cover would become so celebrated and sought after. While His Royal Badass might be gone, we still have his music (and thanks to Thom Yorke, access to his cover of “Creep.”)
(Photo by Danny Howe on Unsplash)