The greatest living entertainer: Beyoncé at Coachella

Last night, over wifi, Jogai Bhatt witnessed Beyonce turn one of the whitest functions of the year – Coachella – into a glorious ode to Black artistry.

I’ve started writing this piece around eight times now. I’ve lost sleep over it. I missed breakfast over it. I was nearly late to work over it. And that’s because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the grand visual experience that was on display last night. There are no words to adequately describe, no words sufficient in this lowly language, to communicate the majesty of what went down.

On April 15, 2018, the greatest living entertainer took the stage for an unparalleled two-hour performance and effectively turned one of the whitest functions of the year into a glorious ode to Black artistry. For reasons unexplained, though most likely divine, I was given the good fortune of bearing witness to it all through the generous filter of my MacBook Air.

I am, of course, referring to Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter’s set at Coachella.

Beyonce at Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival (Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

“Thank you Coachella for allowing me to be the first black woman to headline,” she told the crowd. “Ain’t that ‘bout a bitch?” This historic feat was not to go unnoticed. Opening with a regal walk to the stage in Nefertiti-inspired attire and featuring arrangements from HBCU marching bands, her team orchestrated a celebration of the culture that we all owe so much to. A performance for Black people, by Black people, but one to be acknowledged by all.

Incorporating historically Black college tradition, sampling Malcolm X quotes, performing homages to Nina Simone and Fela Kuti, to singing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’, otherwise known as The Black National Anthem, Beyoncé crossed every genre of Black musical excellence in a performance so immersive I could barely break away (except to tweet). DJ Wally Sparks of Atlanta processed so many more references that went completely over my head.

Our queen didn’t limit herself to the richness of pre-2000s cultural archive. Beyoncé brought modern culture to the forefront by way of some prominent guest appearances. Hov appeared for a rendition of their B’Day hit ‘Deja Vu’, Solange ran on stage for a sisterly dance routine to ‘Get Me Bodied’, and the ethereal demi-goddesses of Destiny’s Child reunited once more, sending me into a momentary daze of euphoric bliss. Oof!

We got a taste of ‘Soldier’ and ‘Say My Name’ and ‘Lose My Breath’. We probably would’ve had ‘Bills Bills Bills’ and ‘Cater 2 U’ if P*st M*lone didn’t occupy more than his allocated stage time. But I digress, because Michelle goddamn crip walked for Jesus, and all my bitter feelings towards the aforementioned melted away.

A New York Times review described the set as, perhaps, the most “meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical” performance to come from an American musician this year, and there likely won’t be one to surpass it. From lively arrangements to fragmented references, and deconstructions of her own hits, Beyoncé’s Coachella set redefined innovation to bring live and virtual audiences an indelible experience, weaving a musical tapestry rich with history, politics, and visual grandeur.

The general sentiment for those viewing the live stream last night was an overwhelming sense of, this shouldn’t be free. I can’t believe this is free, because having something so immersive and monumental and history-defining at the tip of your fingers doesn’t feel like something any of us deserve. But last night, it was, in all its considered glory. And for that, we thank our generous queen. I know I’ll be thinking about this for a very, very long time.

Beyonce at Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival (Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images)


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Source: Beyonce

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X Japan’s Yoshiki Speaks on Marilyn Manson and Bouncing Back From Neck Surgery

An appearance by Marilyn Manson at Coachella? Sold. Yoshiki, the leader of rock band X Japan, has pulled it off, too. Not easy, with Manson tweeting that he was previously banned from the festival, but who follows the rules anyway?

The fact that X Japan are one of the few hard rock acts on the bill speaks for itself. With hip-hop recently stealing the No. 1 spot as the most popular music genre in the world, X Japan's headlining set at the Mojave Stage is a big deal. He's up against Beyoncé in the highly coveted time slot, and even Yoshiki admits he'd rather be watching Queen Bey live in person.

On the Wednesday between Coachella weekends, Yoshiki hosted a screening of We Are X, a music film/documentary showcasing the band's journey into near-legendary status. Prior to the event, we caught up with Yoshiki to discuss bouncing back from two neck surgeries, his relationship with Marilyn Manson, and how the band established their own style in fashion overseas.

L.A. Weekly: For a first-timer, how would you describe X Japan?
Yoshiki: Disaster.

Yoshiki, what role do you play in the band?
Maker of the disaster. [laughs]. Leader of the band. I play drums and piano. I compose the music.

This past weekend, X Japan made their debut at Coachella. Can you speak on this experience and what it was like performing in front of the U.S. crowd?
It was so cool. We played at Lollapalooza in Chicago before, almost 10 years ago. Then we did a North American tour in 2010 — only went to seven cities. The last one we played before Coachella was Madison Square Garden, We played in New York in 2014. Since then, a lot of things happened. I got a neck surgery last year. I was almost paralyzed. Coachella wasn't only X Japan coming to the U.S. but it was my comeback also.

How does it feel being one of the only rock acts at the festival?
I think it's cool, we stand out. [chuckles] We are so lucky to be a part of those amazing artists. It's pretty eclectic, even though some people define us as a hard-rock band. But we have some ballads and some songs you can dance to.

Aside from your own set, what was your most memorable moment from the weekend?
I was playing against Beyoncé's slot. Because it was only last week or so, my agent said, “You are headlining the Mojave Stage.” I'm like, “Whoa, that's cool.” Then he says, “You are playing against Beyoncé's slot.” I said, “Noooo!” Because I wanted to see Beyoncé. The time that I was headlining was 10 p.m. to midnight or something, so I haven't really seen any bands or groups yet. Some of the groups we're looking forward to see are on Sunday after our show.

Speaking of, talk about the announcement of Marilyn Manson joining you this weekend.
Yeah, he's been an amazing friend of mine. So we talked about him showing up at Coachella and he said, “I'd be happy to."

I mean, that's a big deal!
I mean, he's just a very sweet person and he kindly tries to support X Japan — or support me. That's wonderful.

How long have you guys known each other?
A pretty long time.

What's the dynamic like in the studio with Marilyn Manson?
I enjoy every single process. I don't feel like we're “working” together. We're just talking, being friends — nobody's like “do this, do that.” Maybe just put this phrase with this melody or something like that. Just enjoying the process. He's very inspirational.

Talk about the making of We Are X. What do you want fans to get from this documentary?
It's not like a normal music documentary, it's more like a crazy drama. If we didn't make it right. that could have turned into a horror film. But somehow we made it right. There were so many deaths — my father's death, my guitar player's death, my bass player's death — then the lead vocalist got brainwashed and joined a cult. It's almost too crazy to be a true story but somehow the band came back and started touring again.

Talk about how the band started a fashion movement in Japan.
Because I didn't know the rule. So even though we were playing super heavy or fast music (or punk rock or whatever), I started dressing up something like a David Bowie — something feminine. People freaked out: “What are you guys doing?!” I came from a classical music background. Classical music is just full of rules. When you play Chopin, you should play this way. When you play Beethoven, you should play how Beethoven thinks. Which is cool!

Then after my father's death — when I was 10 years old — I found out about rock. I thought rock has more freedom to express yourself than anything, but it was not! Divided by all those genres and all those styles, I was like, “Fuck it, I'll do whatever I want!” Eventually that became our own genre.

You were also featured on the cover of Vogue Japan recently and your own fashion line, Yoshikimono, kicked off Tokyo Fashion Week. How does your style define you?
My parents used to create kimonos, a Japanese robe. Usually in Japan, the oldest son takes over the family business — but I became a musician. So I always wanted to do something with like a fashion line. Then several years ago, I met a kimono creator — a very cherished one. They've been doing it for 150 years or something like that. So we decided to do this kimono together. So we have a very traditional version, but we also have a rock & roll version. You know, kimono and wear these kinds of boots [points to knee-high military boots]. That kind of caught attention from Tokyo Fashion Week and they asked us if we can open it. I also did the finale, too. So I headlined Tokyo Fashion Week one year, and I also opened Tokyo Fashion Week.

How does it compare to fashion in the States?
Japan is an interesting place. We have influences from the West as well as the East. Things are mixed into the eclectic way of life. Japan's fashion is sometimes crazy, in a good way. Also we have some animation influence. Compared to the United States, it's almost like Japan's fashion seems somewhat out of control, but in a good way.

You've had much success over the years. What's next? What's your end goal?
I don't think I made it to that kind of level yet.

Really?!
No, I mean... I'm pretty unknown in the States. I have a lot to do still.

Where do you see yourself down the line?
Another neck surgery? No, just kidding. [laughs]. I already did two. The last time, they put a cervical disc between vertebrae five and six. The doctor told me not to play drums and not to play piano that hard, but it's rock & roll. So whatever works.

One more question. What are some American bands that you love?
I'm not saying it because he's a good friend, but I love Marilyn Manson. Of course, I love Kiss. I love Muse, Slipknot. I love … is Rihanna from America?

YES! I love Rih.
I do like her. And Lady Gaga. Beyoncé. Ah, can't see Beyoncé because we're playing at the same time! But that's the downside of things. I'm very happy, and sad. [laughs] But at the same time, it's cool playing at the same time. It's the same kind of slot. Anything else you wanna let us know? I just wanna thank my fans around the world, I'm in America right now. Because of you guys' support I'm here, and let's rock the world together.

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