10 Best Coachella Performances of All Time
As fans around the world anxiously await the start of the 2023 edition of the Coachella Festival, it is a good time to take a look back at the 10 best performances of all time. The annual festival in the desert has always attracted the top talent in the music industry which has helped catapult the event to the forefront of the music industry.
Before we dive into this list, these performances are in NO particular order and are certainly open for debate. There have been thousands of great performances at Coachella throughout the years, and everyone is going to have their preferences. Now, without further ado, the 10 Best Coachella performances of all time:
1. Tool – Coachella 1999
Where it all began. Coachella 1999 occurred just a few months after the wild events of Woodstock ’99, but it was 3,000 miles away and organizers wanted to offer a vastly different experience. While Rage Against The Machine took the stage at both events, acts like Beck, Tool, and The Chemical Brothers helped maintain the event’s attempt at being “the anti-Woodstock.” While they were still touring on their 1996, triple platinum album, Ænema, the power of Tool’s live performance was enough to set Coachella apart from other festivals and is one of the best ones to date.
2. Prince – Coachella 2008
Whether you’re an avid Prince fan or not, his legend and appeal were always larger than life. When he took the stage at the Empire Polo Grounds in 2008, fans would have no idea what to expect from the Minnesota musician. Opening with a collection of songs by The Time and Sheila E., he would run through his own classics like 1999 and Little Red Corvette before delivering a stunning rendition of Radiohead’s Creep. The set finished with his own massive singles, Purple Rain and Let’s Go Crazy, but it was his scorching take on Creep that had the world talking about the performance.
3. Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg – Coachella 2012
While a joint show between California rap legends Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg is already a massive draw, especially since The Chronic producer rarely steps on stage in recent decades, this hip-hop collective drew headlines for a guest that would show up digitally. Deceased after a tragic drive-by shooting in 1996, Tupac Shakur’s legend had only grown in recent years as individuals such as Dre and Snoop continued to grow the rap brand around the world. At this Coachella, Shakur would make an appearance via hologram, starting a long debate about the responsibility and ethics of using people’s images in this way, as well as creating a market for tours featuring deceased stars.
4. Outkast – Coachella 2014
The Atlanta hip-hop duo of Big Boi and André 3000 revolutionized not just the genre, but pop music and culture. While singles like Ms. Jackson and Hey Ya! dominated radio and remain global classics, the duo stepped away from the spotlight as André 3000 looked to step away from the genre. While hip-hop continued to grow thanks to the path blazed by the duo, they also left a gaping hole with their hiatus. It was the magic of the California desert that would kick off a massive reunion tour in 2014 and were able to delight old fans and show new ones why they are some of hip-hop’s most successful groups ever to do it.
5. Paul McCartney – Coachella 2009
First off, he’s a Beatle. It’s impossible to compete with that legacy and place in musical history. Sir Paul McCartney has written the soundtrack for many generations and any time he takes the stage, it is a moment of triumph and love for those fortunate enough to experience the legend in person. When he was signed on to headline Coachella in 2009, he shared the honor with the Killers and The Cure, a beautiful nod to several generations of hitmakers and icons. Being the legend that he is, he blew past the events curfew by a staggering 54 minutes, a major no-no unless you’re a Beatle and an action that may have led to the Cure’s set being shut down after they were 30 minutes past curfew two nights later.
6. Rage Against The Machine – Coachella 2007
When Rage Against The Machine announced they were breaking up in 2000, they left fans stunned as the group was at the pinnacle of their success. While their music continued to endure, it was the explosive energy of the band’s live performances that were missing. It was the majesty and allure of the Coachella festival which first delivered a reunited Rage to the stage, returning to the festival that they first played during its inaugural run. The announcement of the group’s headling performance helped it achieve a quick sell-out and break records for aggregate attendance while grossing $16.3 million.
7. Guns N’ Roses – Coachella 2016
It was the reunion that the music industry thought would never happen. Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan took the stage in Indio, CA under the banner of their multi-platinum-selling outfit, Guns N’ Roses. Few acts in music history have featured their swagger, destruction, and chaos as Guns did both during their storied career and well into the decades that Axl spent controlling the group and name while Slash, McKagan, and other original members were no longer on speaking terms. To add to the excitement of the reunited group, they even invited Angus Young of AC/DC on stage for a guest appearance.
8. Swedish House Mafia and The Weeknd – Coachella 2022
The rumor mills had this performance speculated for 2023, but the universe and chaos of Ye, formerly Kanye West, had other plans. After the Gold Digger rapper dropped off the event just two weeks prior, the reunited Swedish House Mafia and The Weeknd stepped up to deliver a joint performance for the ages at the zero-hour. After the two first debuted their working relationship with the single Moth To A Flame, the shared headlining slot was a match made in musical heaven. Definitely one of the best Coachella performances of recent times.
9. M.I.A. – Coachella 2005
When M.I.A. stepped into a tent in 2005, she had just debuted in North America two months earlier in February in Toronto, and her debut album, Arular, wasn’t even a month old yet. That didn’t stop the energy and power of her music and artistry from becoming one of the biggest stories of the 2005 festival. While she was performing in a tent that afternoon and was called back for an encore, an already rare occurrence at the festival, but a first for an artist on a tent stage. M.I.A. had arrived and was already changing the rules of the game!
10. Daft Punk – Coachella 2007
A decade and a half later, with the rise of EDM and dance music, it is hard to imagine the true impact that Daft Punk had on both Coachella and the music industry as a whole when they took the stage in 2007. They debuted their iconic “pyramid” stage set-up as they would embark on what would end up being their final live tour, and some of the last shows that the duo would ever play, despite being a group for another 14 years afterward. There aren’t many words to say, this was legendary, so it’s better to just watch and enjoy.
Image Credit: courtesy of Coachella / Provided by dawbell PR