Maneskin Covers Britney Spears, Iggy Pop and Charlie Chaplin at Coachella

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The Italian band Måneskin made its name in the U.S. with a crafty cover, of the Four Seasons’ “Beggin,'” and there were more where that came from during the band’s set Sunday night at Coachella: The group went to both ends of the pop/punk scale and memorably covered Britney Spears’ “Womanizer,” followed by Iggy Pop and the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”

Although it may not exactly count as a cover, singer Damiano David also offered a partial recitation of one of the greatest movie speeches of all time — the climactic monologue from Charlie Chaplin’s classic anti-fascist film “The Great Dictator” — as the introduction to a new, original song that was dedicated to Ukraine.

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Probably not much of the young crowd immediately recognized the 1940 Chaplin speech, which was shortly followed by David yelling “Fuck Putin!” in the middle of the new song, “We’re Gonna Dance on Gasoline,” their last number of the night on the Mojave stage.

But there was mass recognition, and an outbreak of joy, as the “Eurovision” winners tore into Spears’ modern pop classic in a fercious fashion befitting the rest of their hard-rocking set. As with another already iconic cover from earlier in the weekend — Harry Styles doing “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” with an assist from its originator, Shania Twain — David took a song with a strong female point of view and did not bother doing any gender-switching in the lyrics.

“As you know, we really like doing covers,” the singer told the crowd. “More than how much we love doing covers, we love Britney Spears,” he aded.

Earlier in the set, David had made the closest thing to a costume change by doffing a sheer nightgown he was wearing to reveal a skimpy outfit that resembled bondage gear — saying that this stripping down was supposed to happen later in the set, but the lack of promised cool temperatures on stage made him get to it sooner. When the Spears song soon came up in the setlist, he said, “Britney Spears makes us hot.”

The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” was dedicated to that band’s singer, Iggy Pop, who was a featured guest recently on an original Måneskin recording, the similarly titled “I Wanna Be Your Slave.” That song naturally preceded the Stooges’ song in the set.

As saucy as much of the rest of the 10-song set was, from “ZItti E Buoni” forward, the finale took on a more serious, if hardly less rocking, tone, after David put his outer layer back on. The new “Gasoline” song was preceded by a sober reflection on the war in Ukraine — David’s own words mixed with Chaplin’s.

“Are you having fun?” the singer asked. “I’m happy to hear it. But sometimes we’ve gotta understand how big our privilege is, to have the chance to just attend a gig and have fun and be careless and have nothing to think about. And none of us have to think of, (when) you wake up, how many bombs have been launched on the city. So before we start playing our last song, I just want to give you a pitch that Charlie Chaplin gave.”

David then recited an excerpted and condensed version of the climactic speech that the great movie actor gave in character at the close of the satirical “The Great Dictator,” released in the early part of World War II. The part of the famous recitation revived by David reads in part: “Do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish… Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who … treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men — machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men!”

Among the lyrics of the new song: “How are you sleeping at night? How do you close both your eyes, living with all of those lives on your hands? / Standing alone on that hill, using your fuel to kill / We won’t take it standing still / Watch us dancе… We’re gonna dance on gasoline.” Images from the war, and a photo of Russian president Vladimir Putin, flashed on screen. “Free Ukraine! Fuck Putin!” David exclaimed between verses.

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