Any buzzing artist faces crazy nerves before their first Coachella set because so many things can go wrong. But when the problem is completely beyond their control, it can be painful to witness. Such were the sound problems that plagued Lizzo’s otherwise rousing festival debut. The powerhouse soul diva — who was the breakthrough artist of last month’s SXSW festival — sings live to pre-recorded track, and at multiple points during her set, the music dropped out completely.
The issues started just a few minutes in: The singer sailed through every high note of the opening track, “Cuz I Love You,” but during the second song, the sound began cutting in and out. Many performers would have stormed offstage, but Lizzo, her six dancers and DJ stayed with it, singing and dancing to no music for several long seconds until the sound kicked back in, although their mortification and anger were apparent — and understandable. The crowd roared encouragement after the song ended, and after several emotional moments, she spoke.
“It’s my first time playing Coachella, so ain’t nothing gonna f— my time up, bitch!” she said to the packed Mojave tent. Then, directing her comments to the sound personnel, “So when I’m headlining next time” — [crowd cheers] — “I’m gonna need my motherf—ing ears to work.”
She powered through the rest of the set — drawing heavily from her forthcoming major-label debut, also called “Cuz I Love You” and out this Friday — keeping the energy level of her old-school R&B as high as possible despite continued glitches and drop-outs. And while the show certainly wasn’t the ideal sonic Lizzo experience, it was positive in a different way: Many of the proudly plus-sized singer’s songs are about staying strong in the face of adversity — and there she was, living it. Toward the end of the set, as she led into the soul-stirring ballad “Good as Hell,” she said, “You know, it’s times like these that I need this song. I’ve used it when I was depressed, when I was lonely, when I was a little bit disappointed in myself. I hope it lifts you up, Coachella.”
And as she soared into the end of her funky closing track, “Juice,” the sound dropped out yet again. Yelling “I hope the sound doesn’t come back!,” she and the dancers brought the song in for an a capella landing, and they were done. As the crowd roared, Lizzo had the look of someone who’d just emerged safely from an apartment fire. “This was so fun!,” she said. “Thank god I get to do it again!”