April 16th, 2011
04:08 PM ET
Day one of the 2011 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival got off to a rocky start for a couple of acts on the Main Stage. One left the stage by throwing in the towel - literally - and the other managed to pull off an impressive set, much to the surprise of the audience.
Cee Lo Green, who's been all over the airwaves recently in his latest incarnation of "The Lady Killer," was 30 minutes late for his late afternoon set. The desert sun was still blazing at 5:20 pm when he finally made his appearance, and the Atlanta-based R&B/pop singer wasted no time in complaining about his daytime slot. He played five songs - including the Gnarls Barkley hit, "Crazy" and what he likes to call "the adult version" of his Grammy-nominated single, "F*** You."
His set was scheduled to end at 5:40 pm. At 5:44 - just as he was apologizing to the crowd for being late, saying it wasn't his fault because his plane had just landed - the audio to his microphone was abruptly cut. The big screens on either side of the stage showed Cee Lo continuing to talk, and his band continuing to play, yet no sound was coming out of the speakers. Finally, he put a white towel on top of his bald head, walked off stage, and threw the towel to the ground - never to be seen again by Friday's Coachella audience.
We understand the need to keep things on schedule when multiple acts are in rotation during the course of the day, but get this - after they cleared Cee Lo off the stage to make way for Lauryn Hill, she was 20 minutes late! Yet the former Fugees star was allowed to finish her set - apparently with the blessing of the festival - despite running 10 minutes past her allotted time.
Hill - who's been on the comeback trail after a self-imposed exile from the music industry - rushed on stage in a striped tent dress and black hat, after her 13-piece band had been in place and stalling for time. Most festivalgoers were supportive, yet a bit wary, given her reputation for unpredictable behavior. A few fans wondered if Miss Lauryn Hill would be the 2011 version of last year's Sly Stone debaucle, where the famously erratic Rock and Roll Hall of Famer missed his set, then showed up late to his rescheduled performance. He then proceeded to fall asleep at his keyboard, before disappearing without explanation in the middle of his show.
But Hill proved to be one of the surprise highlights of Friday's line-up. After working through a frustrating round of feedback from her microphone, the 35-year-old R&B star took command of the stage, singing with a strength and intensity that demonstrated why her 1998 debut solo album, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill," earned her five Grammys and made her a leading force in popular music. At Coachella, she performed two Fugees songs, covered Bob Marley and ended with a sing-along of her best-known tune, "Doo Wop (That Thing)."
As she left the stage to cheers, Hill earnestly told the crowd, "We love you. We gotta do this more often."
Other Main Stage acts were also crowd-pleasers. Ohio blues duo, the Black Keys, played a winsome, no-frills set. They were followed by their friends, Kings of Leon, who headlined the night with a confidence that only comes from packing large venues on a nightly basis. This was the Kings' first concert since drummer Nathan Followill injured his arm, forcing the quartet to cancel a month's worth of performances.
At the Grammys in February, he told CNN, "I tore my bicep and my labrum in the old gymnasium. We're out for a little while, but Coachella - can't wait for that."
Followill played Friday night's show with his arm in a harness, but certainly didn't hold back in attacking his drum kit. Kings of Leon pretty much split their set list between their 2008 album, "Only By the Night," and their current CD, "Come Around Sundown." In fact, the cover for "Come Around Sundown" - featuring a pair of palm trees - seemed to foreshadow their Coachella gig. As the last notes of "Black Thumbnail" reverberated on stage, dozen of palm trees swayed in the distance to the desert breeze.
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