L’Imperatrice, the French group in Pierre Cardin outfits, makes hearts beat faster
L’Imperatrice, a French sextet that plays a cheerful mix of vintage French pop, funk and disco, delivered the first real Coachella moment of 2022 during their mid-afternoon set in the Gobi tent on Saturday.
A real Coachella moment can’t be planned or predicted, you see. There is an element of surprise that is necessary. It must be unexpected.
That’s why Arcade Fire’s Friday night set doesn’t fully count. You knew what greatness they would offer. They had their Coachella moment that night in 2007, they performed on the outdoor stage at sunset.
The Empress, however, had little experience in the United States, and none at Coachella. So when its six members took to the stage in coordinated Pierre Cardin outfits in various shades of orange, it could have gone either way.
And when the big plastic hearts pinned to their chests started vibrating with red lights and a low heartbeat; Well, that was intriguing, but still no guarantee.
Then the music started and everything fell into place for the upcoming Coachella moment.
With Flore Benguigui, the singer of the group and only female member at the center of the stage, the rest of the group chained themselves from one deep groove to another for the greatest dancing pleasure of a crowd which overflowed well beyond beyond the canopy of the Gobi tent. (The overflow crowds are another sign of a moment, of course.)
“Fear of Girls” or “Fear of Girls” was an early highlight. Did we mention that Benguigui sings mainly in French? We apologize for the lack of more song titles; we are long past our last French course at university.
The grooves were mostly fat bass riffs and squelchy synths with quavering funk guitars mixed in.
Benguigui was very thrilled as a singer, but the guys were fun too. At one point, two guitarists and the bassist thrilled the crowd with their coordinated dance moves, playing their instruments forward, backward, side by side, ending up on their knees at the edge of the stage.
I’m well into the bouncing stage of my life as a dancer at concerts. At the end of L’Imperatrice, I was walking back and forth with the rest of the crowd. Another sign of the Coachella moment.
Here’s what else I caught before sunset on Saturday.
• The Los Angeles band Wallows drew a cheering crowd to the outdoor stage on Saturday afternoon. Their fresh-faced indie rock and songs such as “Especially You” and “Pleaser” delivered catchy beats and sing-along lyrics.
• British singer Arlo Parks played a fine set in Gobi after L’Imperatrice. She has a classic songwriter feel on songs such as “Caroline.” She joined Phoebe Bridgers to sing on a pair of songs on Friday night. On Saturday, Bridgers returned the favor by going out to sing with Parks.
• Japanese Breakfast, the indie rock band led by Michele Zauner, had already performed at Coachella under the Gobi tent. On Saturday, they delighted a large crowd in the larger Mojave.
• R&B singer Giveon, who grew up in Long Beach, drew a huge crowd to the main stage for his sunset set. Her rich, soulful voice was a warm delight on songs like “For Tonight” and “Heartbreak Anniversary.”
• Japanese singer Rina Sawayama, who now lives in London, is sometimes compared to Lady Gaga for her empowerment and self-love songs, as well as her LGBT-positive anthems.
Songs such as “Love Me 4 Me” and “Bad Friend” had the crowd dancing, the majority of whom identified as LGBT when Sawayama, who identifies as queer, asked. She finished Gobi’s full set with “Cherry,” which she billed as her “exit song,” and “Free Woman,” a Gaga song she was asked to cover for the remix album. “Chromatica” by Lady.
• Singer-songwriter Caroline Polachek reminds me a bit of Kate Bush, with whom she shares an equally dramatic and dance-oriented stage presence.
His set in Gobi was captivating with fan favorites such as “Bunny Was A Rider” and some new songs such as “Smoke”. Among the watching crowd was Zauner of Japanese Breakfast, an equally creative performer.
Turnstile, the punk rock band from Baltimore, had the most cheerful and energetic crowd of the day. Most of the half-full Mojave was a noisy mosh pit of smiling, sweaty fans. Singer Brendan Yates ended the show by singing “TLC” as he surfed the mosh pit.