Solange and Frank Ocean tag-teamed magnificently and Tame Impala played their biggest American gig yet

By Eric Renner BrownNolan Feeney and Madison Vain
July 31, 2017 at 02:04 PM EDT
Noam Galai/WireImage

Panorama returned to New York City’s Randall’s Island its second year this weekend. Staged by Goldenvoice — the promoter behind Coachella, Stagecoach, and more — the festival affirmed its status as the gold standard of New York fests with impeccable sound quality, excellent attractions, and an eclectic, unique lineup. Read on for EW’s highlights, from A Tribe Called Quest’s final Big Apple show to Solange’s superb set.

A Tribe Called Quest

The legendary Queens hip-hop group’s first New York City gig since the March 2016 death of founding member Phife Dawg was also their last. “This is our last show here in New York. This is it, as Tribe,” Q-Tip announced halfway through their set. “We gotta honor our brother, Phife Dawg. We want to thank everybody in New York City for supporting A Tribe Called Quest since 1988. We want to thank all of y’all who extended your wishes and empathy and prayers not only to us but to Phife’s family.” But, like their epic final album from late 2016, Phife’s absence didn’t cast a pall. Instead, Tribe honored the late MC’s legacy with an immaculate, career-spanning show that was by turns searing (last year’s America-indicting “We the People…”) and ebullient (1990’s “Bonita Applebum”). Aided by frequent affiliate Consequence, Q-Tip, Jarobi, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad displayed that, despite edging into middle age, they remain some of the genre’s most vital voices. Should this gig and the rest of their brief summer tour truly mark the end of Tribe’s road, the group’s remaining members appear poised to continue producing excellent material on their own. —Eric Renner Brown

Solange

There’s not a single festival superlative Solange’s set couldn’t have snagged after Friday night. Most fashionable set? It’s not easy to make turtlenecks look appealing in sticky summer weather. Best dance moves? Her yoga-like poses were at once inviting and intimidating — simple enough that you wanted to join in, precise enough that you knew you’d never pull them off as gracefully. Best set design? The columns and pyramids towering behind her, all bathed in a warm red light, felt appropriately epic for a set that covered almost a decade of material, from ‘80s pop dance-a-thons (“Losing You”) to understated R&B (“Cranes in the Sky”). And what about best-sounding set? Sure, you could feel every note of every bass line hum in your chest if you stood close enough to the stage, but all it took was one crisp, prolonged high note from Solange to make tens of thousands of festivalgoers lose their minds. —Nolan Feeney

Frank Ocean

The R&B singer’s 2016 album Blonde was a staggeringly intimate work and, as Panorama’s Friday night headliner, he managed to recreate that intimacy in a spellbinding set. Ocean stuck to recent material, performing most of Blonde‘s tracks, a smattering of cuts from its companion album Endless (“Comme des Garçons,” “Higgs”), and one-off singles he’s released this year (“Chanel,” “Lens”); the only track from 2012’s seminal Channel Orange he played was “Thinkin Bout You,” and he spurned 2011’s Nostalgia, Ultra completely. Though the performance clearly challenged Ocean emotionally — after asking the crowd if they’d been through a breakup before “Ivy,” he mentioned going “back to that awful, painful place like I have to do when I’m up here” — he rendered his material with heart-wrenching clarity, from opening hymnal “Solo” to closing anthem “Nikes.” And his economical backing band, including collaborator (Sandy) Alex G on guitar, lent organic oomph to gems like “Self Control” and “Close to You” that made it feel less like a festival show for thousands than a private jam session. —E.R.B.

Noam Galai/WireImage

Tame Impala

As Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker led the Aussie psych-rockers through their headlining set on Saturday, he paused for a moment to reflect on Frank Ocean’s “inspiring” performance from the prior evening. “At least we have lasers,” he quipped when comparing his group to Ocean. True to his nature, Parker seriously undersold Tame Impala: the show, he explained, was the band’s biggest on American soil yet. The group took full advantage of Panorama’s superior sound system, screens, and lights for the weekend’s most impressive audio-visual experience. It’s somewhat surreal to share Parker’s songs of insecurity with thousands of others — “Why Won’t They Talk To Me?” for instance — but, like Ocean, Tame Impala have figured out how to turn loneliness into shared catharsis. —E.R.B.

Before she became a bona fide pop star with Major Lazer’s “Lean On,” MØ spent nearly a decade performing in the punk scene — and it’s her unlikely background that made her one of Panorama’s most electric performers. Flanked by a live band that included a guitarist and a drummer, the Danish singer head-banged and crowd-surfed her way through an impressive collection of collaborations — like the totally bonkers Cashmere Cat rave-up “9 (After Coachella)” — and international solo hits that rocked even harder than they would in a club. Few artists can pull off a record-breaking hit like “Lean On”; even fewer can stack their set with so many high-caliber follow-ups that you almost forget about the song that made them famous in the first place. —N.F.

Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Panorama

Girl Talk

Mashup pioneer Gregg Gillis has kept a low profile since he finished touring the third Girl Talk album, 2010’s All Day. But his first N.Y.C. show in nearly three years proved that, despite the genre’s ubiquity in 2017, he’s still in a league of his own — and years without new material means Gillis has plenty to weigh in on, in a sense. Migos’ recent smashes “Bad and Boujee” and “T-Shirt” got prime real estate, as did cuts like D.R.A.M.’s joyous “Broccoli.” Above all else, his ear for unexpected combinations remains unparalleled: He fused Vince Staples’ “Norf Norf” and Kanye West’s “Fade” before bringing both into Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy,” and later lit the dancefloor on fire when he combined Drake’s “Passionfruit,” Khia’s “My Neck, My Back,” and Lil Jon’s “Get Low.” —E.R.B.

Spoon

Spoon’s ninth album, March’s dance-infused Hot Thoughts, continued their streak as one of indie-rock’s most quietly consistent bands. Their live set is also reliably excellent — and it electrified the Pavilion tent as the Friday work crowd arrived at dusk. Funky Thoughts cuts including “Do I Have to Talk You Into It” and “Can I Sit Next to You” paired well with older material like “Don’t Make Me A Target” and “I Turn My Camera On.” When Britt Daniel’s bracing howl fused with the band’s tight instrumentalists on “The Underdog,” it provided one of Panorama’s early highlights. —E.R.B.

MGMT

Wesleyan University’s most psychedelic export released their first record, Oracular Spectacular, a decade ago, but its hits — “Kids,” “Electric Feel,” “Time to Pretend” — felt current at Panorama. Some of that was because of the far-out LED display, which also could’ve worked for Tame Impala’s set, but most of the relevance stemmed from artists who have been inspired by MGMT’s sparkly, twinkly, guitar-pop. “Kids” and “Electric” comprised their kinetic closing and each got a trippy, trancey reworking. —Madison Vain

Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Panorama

Angel Olsen

Since releasing her third album, 2016’s masterful My Woman, Angel Olsen and her band have become one of the most accomplished live acts on the indie-rock circuit. Olsen’s crystalline voice remains the obvious draw, but she’s backed up by five musicians who lend her moving songs scorching rock & roll bite. The group seamlessly transitioned from 2012’s gorgeous, creeping “Acrobat” to Woman’s searing “Sister.” Angel’s banter is also essential: After cracking plenty of dry jokes, she contextualized her performance when she noted, “It’s hard to reach people, even when you’re close to them.” —E.R.B.

Derrick Carter

This year, Panorama introduced a new stage: The Point, which is touted as “an open-air club celebrating New York City’s key role in the ongoing evolution of DJ culture and electronic music.” The small clearing, surrounded by plexiglass paneling to cut noise from other stages and shaded by trees overhead, was the weekend’s hidden gem, and it hit its peak as Sunday headliners Nine Inch Nails were raging a few hundred yards away. Derrick Carter, the influential 47-year-old Chicago house producer, capped the weekend with an energetic set that fused soul, R&B, and electro. —E.R.B.

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