Following powerful but restrained performances by Grizzly Bear and Spoon, Saturday night's Phoenix set at the north end of the park epitomized the Budweiser Stage's emphasis on subtlety over glitz. "It's great that people have to choose between us and Green Day," Phoenix bassist Deck D'Arcy said sarcastically. "Because the choice is very easy." Across the park, Green Day pulled out all the stops. While reaching back to early songs such as "Paper Lanterns" to tracks off 21st Century Breakdown, Green Day gave the fans everything they wanted – including T-shirts shot out of a cannon and an ecstatic medley of "Shout" and "Hey Jude." "They keep telling us they're gonna pull the plug at 10:00," yelled Billie Joe Armstrong. "You know what I say? They can kiss my fucking ass – we're gonna play as long as we want."
Although the final day began with rain, the sun came out for an epic set by MGMT that mixed the psychedelic material from this year's Congratulations with Oracular Spectacular favorites like "Electric Feel" and "Kids." "For a long time, I felt like we kind of sucked," guitarist James Richardson said, puffing on a joint backstage. Added singer Andrew VanWyngarden, "This is the best we've sounded since we started."
Sunday night, old-school alt-rock fans and their new-school counterparts split the field in half – the former packing the south stage for Soundgarden's first official reunion concert while the latter staked out spots on the opposite end of the park to hear Arcade Fire play material from their new album, The Suburbs.
You couldn't go wrong either way: Soundgarden sprayed reverb across the packed crowd as they played a rare full-band version of "Black Hole Sun" and closed their set with a 10-minute jam on "Slaves and Bulldozers" before leaning their guitars up against their amps and walking off to the screeching sound of feedback.
Arcade Fire closed the festival with an explosive set that included seven tunes from The Suburbs. "It's intimidating playing new songs in front of such a huge audience," admitted frontman Win Butler. But by the time they wrapped with a singalong on the U2-size anthem "Wake Up," Arcade Fire had proved that huge audiences are officially the band's new purview. It was a moment, like so many at Lollapalooza, that lived up to what the National's Matt Berninger described as his own band's ultimate goal for its Sunday night set: "There's a sort of chemistry that happens sometimes at these festivals – those weird moments when the crowd just feels like one organism, and you feel like the brain."
This story is from the September 2nd, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone.
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