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WEEKEND REVIEWS / Pop Music Review

Top-Flight Rock, Rap Acts Hold Their Own

Confident sets from Jane's Addiction, Mos Def and Weezer offer a strong alternative to the electronica.

April 30, 2001|STEVE APPLEFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Ladies and gentlemen, you are now rocking with the best!" That declaration came during a typically rousing hip-hop set by the Roots at Saturday's Coachella music festival. But the sentiment applied to much of the day's rock and rap music.

Though vastly outnumbered on Saturday by electronic acts, rap and rock were well-represented.

Headliner Jane's Addiction provided the most epic sampling of hard rock, even if the '80s/'90s alternative explosion that it kick-started with its two studio albums and the creation of Lollapalooza is now in the distant past. It was impressive that the L.A. group could still draw and excite a mostly young crowd with a repertoire more than a decade old.

"Three Days" maintained its decadent rock majesty, its story of a menage a trois given emphasis by the women dancing on stage. Singer Perry Farrell remained the giddy party-master, dressed in a white jumpsuit and big floppy fedora. Near the end of the set, he brought out a young survivor of slavery in Sudan, urging his audience to political action. "Go get 'em, kids!" Farrell shouted. "Go get 'em!"

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Earlier, the resurgent Weezer performed a tight set of pop flavored by punk and classic rock. The band's unexpected comeback began when it was the surprise hit at last year's Warped Tour, and the band was even more energized at Coachella.

Rapper Mos Def performed a set that bounced from hip-hop to reggae to guitar rock. Amid thick gusts of stage fog, the vocalist led a five-man band with real authority, whether performing a Bob Marley classic or rapping against the spare beats of his early work. Recent songs rode a raw funk groove, with well-timed soul samples, even incorporating a bit of Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby." A new song called "Ghetto" began as a slow ballad before erupting dramatically into raw rock.

Other highlights of the long day in the desert included the tough rap passages of Gang Starr, rock veteran Iggy Pop and the always-dependable Ozomatli, whose tropical hurricane of horns, beats and turntable scratching had the crowd dancing into the late afternoon as tall palm trees swayed behind the stage.

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