After dicey weather dominated the first two days of Lollapalooza, Sunday was pure bliss in Chicago: Not only was there a pleasant breeze blowing in from Lake Michigan – in marked contrast to the blistering heat Friday and violent thunderstorms that prompted organizers to evacuate and briefly suspend the festival Saturday – there was killer music on eight stages all day long.
“Damned if we didn’t get lucky with the weather tonight,” Jack White said, surveying the sprawling crowd laid out before him in Grant Park during a monumental two-hour festival-closing assault last night. Backed at first by his all-male band, Los Buzzardos, White wasted little time igniting the crowd, steering the Blunderbuss pile-driver “Sixteen Saltines” into the barreling White Stripes cut “Black Math.” Later, the guitarist, wearing a black Henley and matching jeans with cream cowboy boots, followed the organ-drenched “Missing Pieces” with a little back-to-back piano action with keyboardist Ikey Owens on “Hypocritical Kiss.”
Although White has been alternating on tour between playing shows with Los Buzzardos and their female counterparts, the Peacocks, he brought them both to Lollapalooza. The men exited as White and backup singer Ruby Amanfu duetted on “Love Interruption,” and the Peacocks took their place, adding rootsy touches with pedal-steel guitar and fiddle on “Weep Themselves To Sleep” and “Hotel Yorba,” then bringing a swinging strut to “Ball and Biscuit.” Along with songs from Blunderbuss and the White Stripes catalog, White performed the Dead Weather’s “Blue Blood Blues,” the Raconteurs’ “Top Yourself” and dug deep for the Rome ode-of-suspicion “Two Against One.”
Elsewhere yesterday, Kaskade’s dance-centric set on Perry’s Stage was a popular tribute to the taut, piston-pumping energy of EDM at its most impactful. Impressive visuals accompanied each track, shifting from a dancing animated woman wreathed in flame to a city skyline that twisted around in time to the beat of a glowing UFO. Live, Kaskade’s grinding grooves draw energy from their nonstop machine-like repetition, while emotional swells and build-ups serve as motivation for high-energy dancing.
Despite the 10-year break between the group’s dissolution and reunion, At the Drive-In showed no signs of age. They performed for one of the festival’s most enthusiastic audiences, as fans surged forward, pumped fists in the air and yelled familiar lyrics. Lead singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s was an energetic, magnetic presence on stage as he leaped from amplifiers.
A wave of adulation greeted Florence and the Machine as they took the Bud Light stage just as the sun was setting. Draped in a flowing red gown, singer Florence Welch turned pirouettes during the performance, her enchanting voice at its finest on the sensual “Leave My Body” and dream-like “Shake It Out.” She showed her sense of humor, too.
“We demand human sacrifices,” she quipped to the audience. “We want your bodies.” The ginger-haired vocalist gave as good as she got: during “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up),” she leaped into the photo pit and dashed through the middle of the crowd, bumping bodies with the awestruck audience. The set was noticeably heavy on material from the band’s latest album, Ceremonials. But as Welch told Rolling Stone backstage before the show, she always intended the new songs to fit comfortably into the band’s setlist. “Live was much more in my mind this time,” she said of writing songs for Ceremonials. “It was easier to translate [to the stage] this time around.”
Donald Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino doesn’t have a shabby resume. The 28-year old comedian has written for 30 Rock, stars on the NBC sitcom Community and released the hip-hop and R&B hybrid Camp under his nickname just last year. Yesterday, Glover added one more accomplishment to his ongoing list: his first performance at Lollapalooza. “We only have 60 minutes, so we’re gonna try to do all the hits,” he promised an enthusiastic and mostly younger crowd. True to his word, Glover mixed the slow jams “So Fly” and the violin-assisted “L.E.S.” with blood-pumping favorites “Heartbeat” and “Freaks and Geeks.” One of the highlights of Glover’s set was his jungle-beat take on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”
On the nearby Google Play Stage, Brian Fallon and the Gaslight Anthem’s set was a massive sing-along from start to finish. The New Jersey rockers paired new tunes from Handwritten with earlier songs from American Slang and The ’59 Sound. Afterward, Fallon was still taken aback by the size of the crowd. “There were people for miles,” he told Rolling Stone. “There was even one guy in a tree.”
International stars Amadou & Mariam, a blind duo from Mali, were among Sunday’s stand-outs, even if their crowd at the Playstation Stage was smaller than their music deserved. Although the setting sun made it difficult to see, the group, resplendent in deep red-purple garments, was worth squinting for. Amadou’s driving guitar solos were particularly impressive: though they don’t swing in the traditional, behind-the-beat rock & roll sense, they were rhythmically deft and inventive.
Sigur Ros played a mid-afternoon set on the Red Bull Stage, but attracted a larger crowd than some later acts. There was a reverential calm in the crowd, who stood in a mud-caked field under a clear blue sky and seemed to let the group’s careful drone- and detail-oriented music wash over them. Unlike many other performances with large audiences, there was a communal sense of respect for the musicians, a willingness to pay close attention that gave the entire performance a near-religious intensity.
Gary Clark Jr. made his Lollapalooza debut – and ended his current tour – with an hour-long blues riot on the Playstation Stage. Afterward, the guitarist admitted to Rolling Stone that the moment was bittersweet, though he said he’s looking forward to a break when he gets home to Texas. “I could sit and stare at the wall for a minute,” he said. “Just be still.” Onstage he was anything but: Clark ripped through the foot-stomping “Don’t Owe You a Thang” and his new Gary Glitter-esque rocker “Give It Up,” a track Clark has been road-testing. He also slowed things down with the falsetto-laden “Please Come Home. “We’re so loud and over the top at times it’s nice to break it down and sing a sweet love song,” he explained.
In the five months since Of Monsters and Men released their debut, My Head Is an Animal, the band’s whimsical and earthy lyrics have struck a chord with audiences. The Lollapalooza crowd was no exception, with onlookers singing to every song on the Icelandic indie folk-rockers’ setlist. For most it was the first time seeing the six-piece. Vocalists Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Ûrhallsson sang back and forth on “King and Lionheart,” “Mountain Sound” and the group’s popular “Little Talks.” “Slow and Steady” started hushed, but was rounded out by accordion, trumpet and dueling acoustic guitars until the song reflected its cascading lyrics: “And I move slow and steady/But I feel like a waterfall.”
Swedish quartet Little Dragon brought a welcome diversity to Perry’s Stage, which was otherwise heavy on abrasive soundclashes. Lead singer Yukimi Nagano was an electrifying presence who conveyed a relaxed cool over the band’s jittery retro dance music. She seemed unaffected by the heat, with a percussive vocal style that reflected the uptempo house rhythms. The band had a strong personality and because of their interest in more traditional grooves, was a refreshing palette cleanser for a dance stage heavily reliant on dubstep drops and headbanging.
Additional reporting by David Drake and Charley Rogulewski.