Best Epic Headlining Set: Arcade Fire
"It's on, motherfuckers!" That's how Arcade Fire frontwoman Régine Chassagne introduced the sole guest to the band's headlining slot at Coachella 2014. The fest typically features some notable surprise guests: this year alone, Nas had Jay Z, Skrillex had A$AP Rocky, Beyoncé sang with sis Solange, Mary J. Blige made a cameo appearance with Disclosure and Pharrell got everyone from Snoop to Gwen Stefani — but Arcade Fire beat them all. Late in their set, they brought out Blondie's Debbie Harry to duet with Chassagne on Blondie's 1979 disco smash "Heart of Glass." Harry was totally badass, her glam charisma and luscious vocals a high point among many in Arcade Fire's set.
The band opened with the title track of latest album Reflektor, giving it a dubbed-out, percussive, extended-remix vibe that played on the record's dance-oriented sound. Songs flowed together like a DJ set and the band's emphasis on mirror-balled groove played out spectacularly, especially on the supremely funky Gang of Four/Talking Heads bass line of "Wait Until It's Over" and a soaring "Afterlife."
All four Arcade Fire albums were represented in the hour-plus set — from a driving version of "Ready to Start" from 2010's Grammy-winning The Suburbs to "Rebellion" and the band's traditional closer anthem "Wake Up" from their breakout 2004 debut Funeral. The band played "Wake Up" just past the hard closing time of midnight; still, even as the sound faded from the speakers, numerous Arcade Fire members — led by frontman Win Butler in a skeleton suit and Adam Ant facepaint — kept playing acoustically, wading into the audience with instruments in hand to encourage a final sing-along. It was a perfect communal end for a perfect communal band at North America's most communal festival.