The last time powerhouse Korean girl group Blackpink played Coachella, during a much-hyped mid-day set in 2019 on the Sahara stage, it was a different band and the world was a different place. That pre-COVID version of the group was the first K-pop band to play North America’s most important festival, and the group had yet to prove itself as career artists; although it was very fun, at times their set felt more like a novelty than the start of a movement.
Not so the group’s headlining set at 2023’s edition of the fest: it’s clear from the stellar show that the group is not only fully formed and confident, it’s totally owning topline placement. The four members of Blackpink — Jennie Kim, Lisa, Rose and Jisoo — along with a cadre of dancers and a crack band, blasted through songs like “How You Like That” and “Tally” (from 2022’s chart-topping “Born Pink”) with choreography meticulously timed to make the most of the stage’s massive video screens, and routines and references that called to mind past pop heroines like Lady Gaga and Janet Jackson. Pyro eruptions, confetti cannons and a mid-show segment that showcased each members’ solo talents gave the pacing an “are you not entertained?” thrill.
(You can watch the set on the Coachella YouTube channel until Sunday’s programming begins.)
And all that doesn’t even take into account the Coachella-precedent-setting opening light show, a jaw-dropping, drone-powered 3D spectacle from the company Skymagic that presented iconic art pieces from Coachellas past and present — the Ferris wheel, a butterfly, dragon, more — constructed from floating, luminous balls of light high above the stage.
That intro presumably was to give the Blackpink set some sort of historical context against the backdrop of past festivals, and the set itself unquestionably delivered. It’s no small feat to conquer the biggest stage at the biggest festival in the U.S.; it’s an even larger one to do it as an artist that seemed niche just a few years ago. The fireworks that ended the set were a coda, but the brightness from them was apparent an hour and a half earlier: whenever Blackpink is in the area, it’s safe now to expect that they’ll bring the heat.