"Something very striking or exceptional."
"Huge and great."
"A big red lollipop."
Those are some of the literal and imagined definitions of the word lollapalooza given in the press kit for the ambitious, 21-city summer rock tour that takes that word for its title.
But the word that may best define the actual event during its 10-hour stop Saturday at Devore Stadium was far less flattering:
The idea behind the "Lollapalooza" tour is appealing enough to make you understand why 13,500 fans turned out for the marathon encounter on the Southwestern College football field here and why the tour is able to do three days at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre (the engagement continues Tuesday and Wednesday).
In some ways, the whole affair--organized by and starring Jane's Addiction--is an answer to all those young fans who have adopted as their personal rock prayer "Bring Back the '60s."
This yearning isn't for the precise music of the '60s--a la the classic rock formats--but for a time when music had more integrity and daring and when there was a sense of commitment in the audience.
"I used to hate it when my folks would sit around listening to the music from the '60s, but now I find myself (longing) for some of that era," said one teen in the audience. "These bands (on the tour) have some of that feeling."
The tour delivered everything it advertised Saturday: seven bands of alternative pop-rock shadings--from a touch of punk to a dash of metal to a tad of rap to a streak of industrial Angst --all woven together in an old-fashioned festival setting, complete with festival seating.
The music was supported by a modest art exhibit and socially conscious issue tents where you could talk to people about everything from gun control and the environment to abortion and ethical treatment of animals.
But the Devore performance didn't give us everything the concept promised.
Instead of any sense of special occasion on stage, we simply had a group of bands that we have had the chance to see before doing pretty much the things we have seen them do before. Joining Jane's Addiction were, in order of appearance: the Rollins Band, the BH Surfers, Ice-T, Nine Inch Nails, Living Colour and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
The musicians didn't take advantage of the unique opportunity to establish any sense of community on stage. They merely did their 45-minute-to-an-hour sets as if they were traveling around the country on separate railway cars.
How memorable it would have been Saturday if Jane's Addiction quixotic leader Perry Farrell had found a way to interact on a song or two with Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid or, better yet, Nine Inch Nails' stark, obsessed Trent Reznor. Or if Ice-T had been able to find some common ground with Siouxsie.
Devore was only the second stop on the tour, so there is time to start weaving that interaction into the show. But there was a second reason that anticlimactic was applicable to Saturday's performance. The day's emotional pulse seemed to wane after Nine Inch Nail's absorbing set.
Living Colour continues to be a worthy band that seeks to elevate the level of meaningful discussion in rock, and Siouxsie's music has an appealing pop swirl, but neither was commanding.
Because it was clearly the crowd favorite and it is one of the half-dozen most compelling bands in American rock at the moment, Jane's Addiction should have brought the evening to a triumphant close.
The group's music is an arty extension of Led Zeppelin power and Black Flag fury that is invariably hypnotic, but Farrell, an especially spontaneous performer, can lift it to an even higher level by giving what we've heard on record an added emotional context or edge in concert. He did it on occasion in the set (including an encore version of the ballad "Classic Girl"), but not consistently. That left us with a good, but not memorable performance--which, if nothing else, summarized the "Lollapalooza" day itself.