The anticipation for Outkast’s Coachella reunion was set to super high this weekend. But did the duo disappoint with a performance that was heavy on the album tracks and light on the hits? Alya Mooro finds herself frustrated by a set that refused to consider the most important thing of all – the audience.
Question: What does this disparate line-up of people have in common? LA Reid, Prince, Odd Future in its entirety, Cassie, J. Cole and David Hasselhoff (yes, really). Answer: They all stood front and centre at Coachella this weekend as Outkast reunited after a near decade-long hiatus. The backstage VIP area was a veritable who’s who of influencers, artists and icons, while out front 50,000 plus people seethed in anticipation for the arrival of Andre 3000 and Big Boi. Not only the biggest selling hip hop duo of all time, the Atlanta two are among its most respected; responsible for helping to put the South on the map, their funk, soul and sci-fi influences and latter day outlandish dress helped alter the hip hop dialogue when Players’ Ball crashed onto the scene in 1993.
Bursting onto the stage with the brilliant B.O.B, the duo quickly seemed intent on schooling the mixed crowd on their entire back catalogue – despite the fact most of the audience probably couldn’t separate the Southernplayacadillacmuziks from the Stankonias. Frustratingly filling much of the set with lesser known tracks from the 90s including ATLiens and Skew It on the Bar-B, it seemed strange that they ignored the hits considering the multitude of classics they have to their name.
An 11.30pm start time didn’t do the performance any favours either. “Are you tired?” asked Andre 3000 at one point. Well yes, yes we are actually - 11 hours of dancing, drinking and eating under the scorching Palm Springs sun will do that to a person. While fighting tiredness for Outkast was definitely worth losing some sleep over, if would have been better if they had returned the favour by playing, well, The Hits.
Half an hour into the set, Dre disappeared, and it was time for Big Boi to go it alone, with the boisterous rapper performing tracks like Speakerboxxx, Bowtie and GhettoMusick, as well as a phenomenal rendition of Tightrope with special guest Janelle Monaé. Andre then returned to flex his solo efforts, performing tracks like Prototype and She Lives In My Lap. When Big Boi returned for Roses the crowd erupted in cheers – no doubt thanks to finally recognising a song.
Of course, the duo is legendary in their own right, so why should they have to pander to the tastes or needs of a writer-cum-sun-seeker? Well, they should because that’s their profession: entertainers. For a headline show of their own, Outkast fans would have no doubt loved a setlist that catered to the classics as well as obscure album favourites. But at a festival, it shouldn’t be assumed that people are going to know or care about the extensive and supremely impressive back catalogue. Sometimes we just wanna sing at the top of our lungs ‘I like the waayyyyy you move!’ or ‘Sorrrrry Miss Jackson, I am fo’ reaaaaaallll’. It wasn’t until the last 15 minutes of the set that we finally reached a squished together medley of Outkast chart toppers. Unfortunately, by that time we had reached the 1am curfew and it felt a little late – literally.
Maybe Dre and Big Boi are under the impression that artistry wins over catchy hits. Maybe they’ll be sad to know they’re wrong. Today’s festival audience wants to sing at the top of their lungs and whip their hair back and forth. Unfortunately, Outkast’s insistence on playing to the few, rather than the whole, resulted in a show lacking a little in luster. Lets hope by the time they get to the UK for Wireless, they’ll have had a rethink of the setlist so that we can all really, really move.