"I gotta say, I'm really excited about Katy Perry," Sheryl Crow gushed briefly about Perry's Bumbershoot-opening set last night, slyly insinuating the chorus from "I Kissed a Girl" into her own opening number, "A Change Will Do You Good." Crow, Saturday's main stage headliner at Seattle's annual late-summer fest, showed the confident ease of an American rock icon, playing with a five-piece roots-rock band to a small but dedicated crowd. Peter Stroud laid down weepy slide guitar for "Strong Enough," while fans sang along to "Good Is Good," and Crow switched from acoustic to electric for "I Can't Cry Anymore." She gave the song a fitting introduction: "Seattle has great musicians. Heart's at the top of my list. I like me some Eddie Vedder."
Meanwhile, across Seattle Center at the moonlit Fisher Green Stage, De La Soul downloaded a greatest hits playlist from hip-hop's late Golden Age. Pos and Dave, with Maceo on turntables, were backed by a crack four-piece band, plus horns and percussion, both three-deep. They started sloppy — this live band thing might've been a first in 20-some years of De La history — but by the time they hit "Pass the Plugs," dipping into serious JBs territory, the set was locked. What proceeded from there was hip-hop heaven. "Jenifa Taught Me" sounded like Otis Redding done De La, "Me Myself and I" felt just right, and the core trio shooed the band offstage for a "two MCs, one DJ" version of "Ooh." Their night-ending, full band version of Gorillaz' "Feel Good Inc" had the crowd going bananas.
Hours earlier, Katy Perry opened the main stage with an uneven 40-minute set under gloomy early afternoon skies. She didn't get any sleep the night before, she told a crowd of teenage girls and middle-aged men, and she was determined to get to Bumbershoot on time. Perry's thighs were the stars of the show, as the rest of her seemed to alternately pogo or sleepwalk through her songs. "Queen is the main reason I do what I do," she said before trying a cover of their "Don't Stop Me Now," "I swear to you they're my favorite." She strummed an acoustic guitar during a convincing version of "Thinking of You," but by the time she got to "I Kissed a Girl," the crowd seemed mostly over it.
It was a good day for Seattle sons. Past Lives — comprising former Blood Brothers — played ominous, knife-edged post-punk. Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground — former Gatsbys American Dream — regaled with raucous cabaret-pomp pop. Upstart L.A. provocateurs Iglu & Hartly apparently missed the memo about shirtless, long-haired rap-metal belonging to 1994, coaxing a roomful of teenage boys to hoist their teenage girlfriends on their shoulders; later, on the same Expo Center stage, New York freak-beat quartet Gang Gang Dance whipped up a surreal, dub-drenched racket surreal that sent half the room running and half dancing madly. Whether it's the discouraging weather, the lineup, or the economy, attendance is down at Bumbershoot this year, but quality remains high.