Los Angeles Times

Lollapalooza '07: Friday reviews

Daft Punk
8:30 p.m., AT&T stage
It's been years since Daft Punk has had much of a commercial impact, but in recent months they've re-emerged as a crowd-pleasing festival favorite and one of the few dance acts willing (and able) to translate their meticulous recordings to the live setting. The French duo's headlining performance Friday was no exception, with Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo leading the fun sonic assault perched atop a giant pyramid and hidden behind their trademark robot DJ costumes. Even if songs such as "One More Time," "Da Funk" and "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger"--not to mention reworked and beefed up tracks from 2005's somewhat maligned "Human After All" disc--weren't enough to get the massive crowd moving with throbbing bass and kitschy samples, the spectacular light show would have done the trick. Word has it even fan Kanye West was in the house, enjoying the spectacle. -- Joshua Klein

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals
8:30 p.m., Bud Light stage
What started out as a mellow, somewhat stiff set--even the usually funky "Black Rain" felt like it need a kickstart--quickly swelled into a fest-friendly showcase of what Ben Harper does best, with long, guitar-driven jams on favorites like "With My Own Two Hands" and "Forgiven," and raw, emotional vocals on the tortured "Please Bleed." The showstopper, though, came not from Harper but from Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, who strolled onstage mid-set to join Harper for a single acoustic tune. --M. Kathleen Pratt

LCD Soundsystem
7:30 p.m., MySpace stage
With Daft Punk coincidentally set to take the stage immediately after and directly across from LCD Soundsystem, how long would it take the group to play its fan-favorite "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House"? Not long. LCD Soundsystem frontman/mastermind James Murphy played it second, allowing the audience to quickly settle their bets before giving their undivided attention to the New York dance-punk group, which tore through a blistering set of songs from its two albums. Special kudos to drummer Pat Mahoney, whose frantic precision beats pulsated nonstop through the group's hour-long set, long after most drum machines would have overheated. And we thought Lance Armstrong had stamina. -- Matt McGuire

Femi Kuti and the Positive Force
7:30 p.m., Adidas stage
Femi Kuti, heir to the Afrobeat throne (thanks to his father, Fela Kuti) and Lolla's Friday-night nod to world music, played to a smallish audience, and it took him nearly 30 minutes to find his footing with the crowd. Still, the West African dynamo never stopped dancing. Kuti kicked off his set with the universally popular "Truth Don Die," but quickly moved into the socially and politically charged tunes that make him a mega-star in Nigeria but fell flat with the backward-baseball-cap crowd at the Adidas stage. When he finally kicked things up with "Beng, Beng, Beng," a driving tune that takes advantage of his 10-piece band and tight horn section, the crowd seemed to find its groove too. --M. Kathleen Pratt

The Black Keys
6:30 p.m., Bud Light stage
"Anyone here from Akron?," asked Black Keys guitarist Daniel Auerbach Friday evening. Lying in unison, thousands cheered back with enough enthusiasm that a more-gullible person might have believed the audience. After all, that would have explained how the Ohio-based Keys managed to attract so many people, despite performing in the same time slot as Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell, howling at the other end of Grant Park with Satellite Party. The Keys have drawn a lot of comparisons to the White Stripes, but aside from the fact that the group consists of two members, few other similarities exist. Sure, Auerbach shares Jack White's enthusiasm for bluesy, rock riffs, but unlike Stripes' drummer Meg White, Keys' time-keeper Patrick Carney is actually much more than just that. --Will Fresch

Satellite Party
6:30 p.m., AT&T stage
Between leading the seminal Jane's Addiction and spearheading Lollapalooza, no one can deny Perry Farrell's role as an innovator. Yet despite his past and a CD with special guests such as Peter Hook and the late Jim Morrison, Satellite Party on stage is a disappointing detour of watered-down funk ("Wish Upon A Dogstar") and stagnant guitar grooves ("Insanity Rains"). Perhaps the frontman realized the new material's inadequacy, stacking the set with thetriumphantly received "Stop" and "Jane Says" (both from the Addiction era), plus "Pets" from his Porno For Pyros days (complete with that band's Peter DiStefano as guest guitarist). --Andy Argyrakis

Blonde Redhead
5:30 p.m., MySpace stage
At one point, Blonde Redhead specialized in abrasive bursts of noise. Further down the line, however, they've morphed into something a whole lot prettier, not so much softened as blurred. As throngs of curious onlookers streamed by following a set by jam-fiends moe., the ever-cryptic Blonde Redhead essentially painted with their guitars, summoning up sheets of sound before bending them at the edges. It's a trick well-trod by countless bands before them, and indeed songs from this year's excellent "23" recalled such shoegazer predecessors as My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins, to beautiful effect. -- Joshua Klein

Silverspun Pickups
5 p.m., Citi stage
If The Smashing Pumpkins quasi-reunion has left you a little cold, you can get your fix of guitar-driven '90s alt-rock in relative newcomers Silversun Pickups. They don't have as much polish as the Pumpkins -- think of them as Billy Corgan's kid brother's garage band -- but no one seemed to mind as the band blew through a well-received and energetic set. Drummer Christopher Guanlao was a mess of hair and flailing arms; bassist Nikki Monninger, armed with a ship-anchor-like Gibson Firebird bass, looked stoic as she anchored the songs; keyboardist Joe Lester relentlessly worked his stack of synthesizers; and frontman Brian Aubert took it all in between swirling guitar solos. -- Matt McGuire

The Rapture
5 p.m., PlayStation stage
The Rapture jumped straight into an infectious disco-pop blend of guitars, percussion, synthesizers and cowbell--more cowbell! By second song "Get Myself Into It," there wasn't a person in sight not feeling the groove. The crowd was a surging mass of sweaty bodies engaging in a full-on dance party. Guitarist/vocalist Luke Jenner and bassist/vocalist Mattie Safer fed off the energy, hitting highs with their party animal yowls and twanging bass. Lolla-goers clapped and moved continuously during the New York quartet's hour-long set, which flew by much too quickly. -- Karen Budell

4:30 p.m., Bud Light stage
She may have lost her voice at a show in Los Angeles, but London-based Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A. came onstage calling for "an outdoor rave." Sporting silver-glitter, short-short gym shorts, Maya Arulpragasam previewed material from herupcoming sophomore album "Kala" and revisited standouts from 2005's "Arular." Although a technical glitch topped "Pull Up the People" mid-song, it didn't stop the party. Through it all, M.I.A. strutted across the stage, danced the running man, climbed a lighting rig, and even gave a shout out to the FBI. When it was all over, the crowd-pleaser left the stage shouting "I Love You" to fans. --Kristina Francisco

Electric Six
3:30 p.m., PlayStation stage
The Detroit sextet looked cool and polished in suits when frontman Dick Valentine stated that the band planned to get "progressively hammered as the night goes on." Their music, you could say, followed suit--starting strong and steady and building to a solid party atmosphere. Crossing punk, rock and dance, Electric Six was carried by Valentine's standout vocal delivery and the banging rhythms of their Buffalo Grove-native drummer. Valentine told an offbeat, futuristic political fantasy involving the female audience members and President Bush, then led the band right into "Rock n Roll Evacuation," singing about an "evil generation." They wrapped with more high-energy songs, the crowd looking like an enactment of "Dance Epidemic." -- Karen Budell

Against Me!
3:30 p.m., Citi stage
Florida punks Against Me! boast an anarchist pedigree, which means the more success they achieve, the more guff they receive from other self-proclaimed anarchists. Their latest album "New Wave," released on a major label and produced by Butch Vig, has attracted a predictable response of "sell out," but as demonstrated by the modest but enthusiastic crowd the band drew, Against Me! is smart enough to weather any storm. Their songs are surprisingly self-critical, admitting the hopelessness of "protest songs against military aggression," and worrying about coming off as "Americans abroad" (with all the negative connotations that phrase conveys). Yet when they sang about "searching for the crest of a new wave," they weren't talking about surfing, they were talking about taking on the world and, with their growing popularity, changing things from the inside out. --Joshua Klein

3 p.m., BMI stage
Between The Polyphonic Spree's overpowering noise bleed and a competitive time slot with the like-minded Jack's Mannequin, Fueled By Ramen's latest local find Powerspace played to a relatively thin crowd. But the mini mass was still mighty thanks to a high-octane setthat switched between surging electrics and 80s-flavored electronics. (Think an adolescent version of Duran Duran.) While never reinventing the wheel and occasionally leaning too close to guilty pleasure boundaries, the urgent insistence of "Amplifire," the chilled out "Sleep, Everyone..." and raucous "Right On, Right Now" (all from freshman effort "The Kicks ofPassion") were undeniably infectious. --Andy Argyrakis

The Polyphonic Spree
2:30 p.m., Bud Light stage
When the Polyphonic Spree burst onto the Bud Light stage with a soaring version of "Running Away," we realized they were at once terribly ill-suited and incredibly well-suited to play Lollapalooza. In their all-black, military-style garb, we were worried that their usual antics wouldn't hold up to the heat. But their huge, symphonic sound was just right for a venue that could easily swallow a smaller, less energetic act. The crowd was reserved at first, but by the time the Spree hit their stride with "Watch Us Explode," most folks had caught the fever. By the 40-minute mark, when band leader-singer Tim DeLaughter led the masses in a singalong cover of Nirvana's "Lithium," everyone was on board. Other crowd-pleasers included calling in the Chicago Tap Theatre to provide rhythm on "Mental Cabaret" and donning their classic white tunics before forming a human chain and marching jubilantly through the crowd. -- M. Kathleen Pratt

Jack's Mannequin
2:30 p.m., AT&T stage
Jack's Mannequin's peppy frontman Andrew McMahon has a propensity to play the piano with one hand, the other usually pumping into the air--probably a good metaphor for this performer's onanistic brand of emo-pop. During his Friday afternoon performance, dressed in skinny black jeans and a Police t-shirt, McMahon flashed boundless grins to the audience while being backed by three bandmates who seemed happy to let this heart-on-his-sleeve pianoman mug away. "I wrote this song for a girl I missed," he said introducing one number. "It's called 'Lonely Girl'," he said. "Aww," cooed the crowd, as if on cue. Good grief. Next time, why not just haul a sad-eyed puppy on to the stage? --Chris LaMorte

Viva Voce
2:15 p.m., Citi stage
Unfamiliar with Portland, Oregon, duo Viva Voce? Perhaps you'd recognize singer-guitarist Anita Robinson as the Shins' angelic backup singer from her appearances with the band on "Saturday Night Live" and other late-night shows. If that's the case, her distortion-drenched guitar wailing during Friday afternoon's set probably threw you for a loop, as she and drummer-singer husband Kevin Robinson shredded, walloped and improvised their way through a mid-tempo set of blusey psychedelia. --Matt McGuire

Son Volt
1:30 p.m., Adidas stage
Frontman Jay Farrar has put in some serious miles on the road with his ever-changing Son Volt bandmates--not to mention his days as a solo artist and with former band Uncle Tupelo. While the miles were evident Friday afternoon as Son Volt flawlessly ran through their set, the group unfortunately appeared too comfortable with the material, seldom venturing into unfamiliar territory. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but midway through the set the crowd already seemed eager for a change of pace. -- Will Fresch

Ted Leo + Pharmacists
1:30 p.m., MySpace stage
For all of Lollapalooza's "alternative" branding, very few of the acts playing are actually on independent labels. Not so Ted Leo, who calls local indie Touch & Go home. But his independent streak stretches even further. How far? Leo stumbled out on stage wearing a button-down, long-sleeved black shirt in 95-degree weather. That's crazy-indie. He also offered a typically blistering, breakneck set that spoke truth to power, assaulting the military industrial complex in all its guises. Having injured his hand when he tripped at the start of the set, Leo had to cut his slot short, but at least he stuck around long enough to make his voice of protest heard. --Joshua Klein

Chin Up Chin Up
1 p.m., Citi stage
After suffering from self-proclaimed "drum malfunctions" at the beginning of its set, Chicago'sown Chin Up Chin Up ironed out the wrinkles for a blistering (albeit slightly shorter than scheduled) 40 minute indie-rock romp. "Water Planes In Snow" crossed militant drum beats with jangle-flanked guitars, while "This Harness Can't Ride Anything" soared with the anthemic vocal styling of frontman Jeremy Bolen. No matter what the tune, the bandpresented a palatable balance of experimentation and accessibility, coupled with an ever so subtle (but satisfying) dance-laden keyboard underpinning. --Andy Argyrakis

12:30 p.m., Bud Light stage
Jamming like they haven't stopped the party since playing Double Door last night, funk trio Soulive's energetic performance brought back memories of their sizzling set at Lolla two years ago. That is, when new-to-the-band singer Toussaint wasn't on stage and Eric Krasno and brothers Neal and Alan Evans could play some older, hotter material. When the totally average R&B/soul crooner joined them, the band still cooked, but their infinite cool started to veer a bit more towards room temperature. Only during a cover of Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean" did the presence of vocals in a booty-shaking, normally instrumental outfit seem like a good idea. -- Matt Pais

Noon, Citi stage
Get this: A Pennsylvania-based group called Illinois that, thanks to the frequent presence of banjo and tambourine, plays backroads stomps that sound like the Soggy Bottom Boys stepped out of "O Brother, Where Art Thou" and learned how to rock. The young group is still a little unrefined--for heaven's sake, singer Chris Archibald gave "bunny ears" to the Q101 DJ that introduced the band--but their jingle-jangle bounce shows a lot of potential, whether it makes you slap your knee or bang your head. -- Matt Pais

Elvis Perkins in Dearland
11:45 a.m., Adidas stage
Despite the scorching noon sun, Elvis Perkins stepped onstage decked in a dark suit and large brimmed hat. (Asked whether he was hot up there, the singer-songwriter explained that, yes, there was air conditioning onstage before he launched into set-opener "It's Only Me".) With his band Dearland behind him, Perkins's intimate lullaby melodies and folk-rock tunes translated surprisingly well in the open fields of Grant Park as he ran through songs off his debut, "Ash Wednesday." By the end of the set, Perkins proved himself to be a man of the people by inviting a fan to join in on closer "While You Were Sleeping." -- Kristina Francisco

The Fratellis
11:45 a.m., MySpace stage
A few hundred people had gathered when The Fratellis took the stage on Friday morning--a decent-sized crowd, considering that many festivalgoers were still arriving and some were probably still in bed. Few bands want such an early slot on day one of a three-day festival, but the Scottish trio stepped up to the plate and belted out one rock gem after another. While few fans were awake enough to get animated just yet, nobody could resist hopping along to the group's closer, "Chelsea Dagger." -- Will Fresch

Last Band Standing: Helicopters
11:15 am., Citi stage
Chicago's Helicopters never mentioned that they scored the festival's first slot because they were finalists in Lolla's battle-of-the-bands contest, dubbed "Last Band Standing." Fortunately, the guitars-keyboard-drum machine trio sounded polished enough to rise above being labeled as wannabes, with the group seemingly playing from the mid-point of Ben Gibbard's brain--planted firmly between Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service. Though they started with a single-digit audience, Helicopters gradually drew a crowd, and not just because there wasn't much else going on. --Matt Pais

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