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Coachella 2011: Elbow tills the earth; Broken Social Scene throws off the sun

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In a quick chat before Elbow's set in the Mojave, frontman Guy Garvey said the band's latest album --  "Build a Rocket Boys!" -- is a stripped-down affair. And though the British band has been touring in support of it with chandeliers, red velvet tapestries and other big-arena touches, Elbow was looking forward to playing a show at Coachella that matches the album's simpler focus.

"Not everything has to be computer-designed," Garvey said, sucking on an old-fashioned vice, the cigarette. "There's something great about 20,000 people singing together." (According to reports that Arcade Fire's headlining set will be a technology-assisted feast for the senses, I don't think the Canadians got that memo.)

Photos: Faces of Coachella 2011

In the Mojave tent, it wasn't quite 20,000, but it was a devoted crowd that reveled in Elbow's sophisticated rock, the sound that nabbed the band the Mercury Prize for 2008's "The Seldom Seen Kid." But it wasn't a track from that album that harnessed the momentum: Elbow reached back to "Station Approach," from its fine "Leaders of the Free World," to showcase its deft dynamics. These guys don't luck into a song, they raise it from the hard-scrabble earth, tilling the soil till they've got a big banyon tree of a creation with sprawling limbs.

Photos: 360° panoramas of Coachella 2011

Broken Social Scene has that same knack, intent on chasing every melodic or structural thread its starts, and infusing every song with textural details -- as the band does on its latest John McEntire-produced album, "Forgiveness." Band members kicked off their late-afternoon set with "Worldsick," a seven-minute odyssey that was enough of a proper anthem, with hushed parts and crashing peaks, to stir the attendees in the back beached on the grass waiting for the sun to fade.

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-- Margaret Wappler

Photo: Broken Social Scene performs Saturday on the Coachella stage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio. Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times

 
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