Yet Williams couldn't be consoled: During "Get Lucky," the Grammy-winning Daft Punk hit he sang and co-wrote, he simply hung his head and allowed his recorded vocal to carry the song for him. Next weekend at Coachella's encore run, he said, he'd make up for the performance even if he had to wear a gas mask.

It wasn't all such a waste.

Williams opened the gig with an appealingly slinky version of his other Daft Punk collaboration, "Lose Yourself to Dance," then led his band through the stuttering funk of "Come Get It Bae," from his recent solo disc, "G I R L." His old solo tune "Frontin'" was fun, as Williams tried out some of the pelvic thrusts that might be pop stardom's second-most-important requirement.

He brought out Nelly to do "Hot in Herre," then Busta Rhymes and P. Diddy to do "Pass the Courvoisier Part II" -- both decade-old hip-hop hits that still sound like visions of pop's future.

Tyler, the Creator, from L.A.'s Odd Future, jumped onstage during "Lapdance," by Williams' psychedelic rap-rock band N.E.R.D. And there was Snoop Dogg, in no particular hurry to get anywhere as the relaxed thump of "Drop It Like It's Hot" and "Beautiful" filled the desert air.

In a way, though, the presence of those others stars -- especially Stefani, whose surprise appearance for "Hollaback Girl" sent a wave of excitement (and camera-phone flashes) through the crowd -- only emphasized what seemed like Williams' core discomfort at being the center of attention.

Before he was the guy, Williams was the guy behind the guy, crafting hit after ingenious hit for others to sell with their charisma. His remarkable run of singles in 2013 and 2014 suggested he's ready to do some of that selling on his own.

But even when he wasn't griping about the wind Saturday, Williams often appeared unsure what to do with himself, the sideman suddenly thrust into the leading-man role.

Perhaps that's why he filled the stage with pals (and what looked like a few strangers) for his finale of "Happy." Surrounded by other people for the audience to gaze at, Williams seemed more at ease than he had all night.

Better luck -- and a better "Get Lucky" -- next time?