Red Hot Chili Peppers
Sometimes too much anticipation can turn to chaos and that's exactly what happened from the second the Red Hot Chili Peppers took the stage. During a blistering bass-rippled instrumental, thousands surged the stage, resulting in a slew of bodies being hurled above the heads of security personnel and over the barricades. The scene probably would've looked cool on television but proved to be a treacherous viewing environment as the group bounced through the familiar "Dani California" and "Scar Tissue." Yet an assortment of lackluster, half-baked material from "Stadium Arcadium" broke the set's continuity, which didn't escalate again until the home stretch battle cries of "By the Way" and "Give It Away."
Everyone loves Kanye, but Wilco's the band Chicago rock fans rally around as one of their own. Playing yet another celebratory outdoor show in Grant Park, the group showed off a handful of quirky but oddly poppy new songs that instantly clicked with the (admittedly) highly sympathetic fans, who sang along with nearly every word of the rest of the set. The group was in high spirits and good form, and as with the best of their sets, whet the appetite for what comes next.
She Wants Revenge
She Wants Revenge put on a real dance party, from the drawn-out post-punk guitar intro to the synthy Joy Division-inspired beats that had frontman Justin Warfield doing hipster hip swivels as he belted out tunes in his monotone sing-speak. The party peaked with "I Don't Want to Fall in Love," which conjured up early Depeche Mode, and ended on a high note with the crowd shouting along to "Tear You Apart."
Matisyahu (real name: Matthew Miller) is not just the best Hasidic reggae star, he's the only Hasidic reggae star. Of course, that also makes him, paradoxically, the worst Hasidic reggae star. Anyone at his Sunday set who didn't feel at least a little uncomfortable with his Jamaican affectations should, while they're looking up "Hasidic" and"Rastafarianism," look up "minstrelsy," too.
30 Seconds To Mars
As an actor, Jared Leto knows how to entertain, andhe's applied the skill to fronting 30 Seconds To Mars.He and the band entered wearing white masks, wavingflags and throwing roses (inspired by last year's "ABeautiful Lie" artwork) while also jumping in the crowdand climbing the gargantuan stage scaffolding. But thecheerleading couldn't cover up the fact that songssuch as "The Kill" and "The Story" were nothing morethan recycled metallic alt-rock loaded withcommonplace arrangements and lyrical clichés.
As the Shins noted, it's been a long time since the band has played Chicago; they've been busy crafting songs for their upcoming third album, a handful of which the mass of fans at Lollapalooza were treated to. The new stuff sounds downright charming and rather true to the trademark lo-fi confections of their previous work. I've seen the Albuquerque, NM indie-pop troupe play a much tighter set, but they still put on a crowd-pleasing show once singer James Mercer's voice warmed up a couple songs in.
It was a mistake to stick Of Montreal at the AMD side stage. The band drew a bigger-than-expected crowd, which led to a post-Matisyahu blockade. No surprise, really. Between the band's garish costumes--lead singer Kevin Barnes really knows how to rock a puffy shirt and skirt ensemble--and their infectious dance pop, the band attracted the attention of several casual observers. Unfortunately, sound problems with Barnes's guitar affected their first few numbers before he discovered the problem: a faulty foot pedal, which he proceeded to smash into pieces.
The cans of beer perched atop The Redwalls amplifiers were certainly in keeping with the Chicago quartet's rock 'n' roll image, though they did little to rev up the band during its early-afternoon set. Try coffee next time, fellas. The group seemed to be going through the motions, a stark contrast to its early-afternoon set at last year's Lollapalooza, when the band was ecstatic to be at the fest only a month after the release of its major-label debut. Is the thrill already gone? We hope not.
Andrew Bird has said he quickly grows tired of his own material, so it makes sense that his afternoon set was filled with sneak previews and masterfully reworked songs from his back catalog. Accompanied only by his well-used sampler and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Martin Dosh, the Chicago singer/violinist/guitarist artistically tweaked his gothic lullabies time and time again, keeping his set fresh and his audience on its toes.
Most of the charm of Nickel Creek's performance comes from the incongruity of their bluegrass licks echoing off the Chicago skyline. Proving solos aren't just for jam bands anymore, mandolinist Chris Thile seems to coax smoke from his strings. It's a cover-heavy set that includes Radiohead's "Nice Dream" and Britney Spears' "Toxic" but doesn't reveal enough of the band's own personality. Still, it makes for a pleasant enough diversion in the early afternoon sun.
The Hold Steady
Vying with Art Brut for the title of smartest band in rock and roll,The Hold Steady took the bombast, big riffs and hyper-romantic lyricsoff classic rock and kicked it into the stratosphere. Butwhere lesser acts would settle for irony, The Hold Steady's Craig Finndelivered his sharply drawn narratives with a heartfelt sincerityperfectly complemented by a hilarious, wry sense of humor.
Dublin's The Frames may have started slow with a fewdirge-like ruminations, but by the end of "Star Star,"the band impressively exploded with furious licks and therugged vocals of Glen Hansard. And by the time the grouparrived at "Pavement Tune," it mirrored the anthemicflavor of fellow country men U2, but without thetheatrics. Instead the gang found its nicheincorporating Celtic influences with searing electricsto propel the momentum building experience.
Manishevitz is probably the most consistent Chicago band perfoming today and don't seem to be capable of turning in a lackluster performance. All seven musicians perform like parts of a Swiss watch as they lay out their smooth, Roxy Music-inspired grooves. Though not as seductive, Adam Busch is a tougher frontman than Bryan Ferry ever was, lending songs like "Private Lines" a muscularity that keeps them from devolving into a boring, pseudo-jazz vibe.
Blue-eyed soul has the potential to be a bit cheesy and cover-bandesque by default, but this local group doesn't fall into that hole. For a relatively inexperienced band--signed to indie label Secretly Canadian--they were impressively comfortable playing Lolla. And, while we're happy to call them our own, they may as well be from Kentucky with their natural, dense twang and finessed grooves.
School of Rock All-Stars
This group of youngsters from the Paul Green School of Rock Music--featured in the film "Rock School," not Jack Black's "School of Rock"--delivered irresistibly fun hard rock covers to a crowded lawn at the Kidzapalooza stage. While more than 20 musicians traded off stage time like a hockey team doing line changes, the set featured guitar solos that Black's "School of Rock" character would surely call "face-melting," and a rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Gallows Pole" that found the teenage female vocalist channeling Robert Plant by way of Lindsay Lohan.
Perry Farrell/Peter DiStefano
Children's music is often repetitive by nature, but Perry Farrell performs sublimely in spite of this limitation on "Awesome," a song about seeing his baby daughter for the first time. Reframing many of their Porno for Pyros songs for the Kidzapalooza stage, Farrell and Peter DiStefano run through a brief acoustic set including "Aqua," and "Pets," a rumination on what would happen if Martians came down to Earth and domesticated the human race. It's some of the most subversive "kids music" since people sussed out a double meaning behind "Puff, The Magic Dragon."