Lollapalooza | 08.05.10

DEVO brought with them the classic DEVO suits, an insane video board and the energy of men 20 years their junior.

1 p.m.: The Constellations (Sony Bloggie Stage)
I wanted to start here as I enjoyed Southern Gothic when reviewing it for this very site, but I knew that making the 1 p.m. start time might be difficult. Luckily, we were able to head to the box office Thursday night to get our wristbands, so we strolled down and made it with perfect timing. Immediately obvious was the fact that they closed Columbus Street and moved the entrance a block forward, allowing the street to be used for more movement—and, more importantly, more portable bathroom. That made it the second year in a row they improved on my biggest complaint, as last year they opened a new entrance to shorten wait times. The people who run Lollapalooza should get a ton of credit for working on their issues yearly. There are still going to be some problems that giant festivals bring, but they seem to make an attempt to make each year better. Now if they can only fix that damn Playstation stage…
I was pleased as The Constellations played a solid, tight set. They were only scheduled for 45 minutes and used even less to deliver choice material from Southern Gothic. Elijah Jones’ trademark growl was in full display, and the large group—consisting of Jones, several guitars/basses, a keyboardist, horns, an MC and two backup singers—came together nicely without stepping on each other’s toes. This was an awesome way to open the festival.
2 p.m.: Raphael Saadiq (Parkways Stage)
I listened some to Saadiq without knowing he was part of Tony! Toni! Tone! until he played a few of their songs and I looked it up. That definitely made him even cooler, although he didn’t need any help. This was our first attempt to keep the festival fresh, as too much similar music can wear you out. It was a great surprise, as Saadiq put on an excellent show. Much like The Constellations, he was joined by an extensive backup band and his voice sounded so pure and incredible in person. I was extra amazed by Saadiq’s ability to grab an instrument (generally his guitar) and play a lead while belting one out, never missing a beat. R&B isn’t my favorite genre of music, but it’s hard to deny when done right, and Saadiq is a master who should have been higher in the lineup.
4 p.m.: DEVO (Parkways Stage)
This was easily my most anticipated act, due to stories of their legendary SXSW set and their return to form in Something for Everybody. The band didn’t disappoint in the slightest, bringing with them the classic DEVO suits, an insane video board and the energy of men 20 years their junior. They absolutely tore through the best tracks from their latest, “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man),” Fresh” and “What We Do,” and the crowd absolutely loved it. The participation just grew as they hit all the right classics like “Whip It,” “Girl U Want,” “Uncontrollable Urge” and “Jocko Homo.” I don’t make demands at Lollapalooza—instead, I tell my group my plans and they generally join me at most shows. This is one of the few shows for which I’ve ever said, “You really have to come to this.” I was right in a major way, as everyone was absolutely impressed and surprised at how awesome their set was.
5 p.m.: Matt & Kim (adidas MEGA Stage)
You know what you get when you go to see Matt & Kim. They never pretend to be anything other than a duo that loves to have fun, shown here by their interpretation of “Just a Friend” and their version of “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” in Columbus. They play at 100 miles an hour, only stopping to tell great stories about the tracks they’re about to play, or to have Kim dance while the crowd holds her up and Matt scales the scaffolding. I don’t think a Matt & Kim performance will convert anyone who isn’t a fan of their music, but for fans and casual observers, they bring energy as much as anyone touring today.
6 p.m.: Hot Chip (Parkways Stage)
Hot Chip were my other must-see act, and like DEVO, they did not disappoint. Although the band sadly opened their set by announcing Joe Goddard would not be joining them as he was attending the birth of his child, they also delivered a good surprise with the fact that Ringo Starr had stepped up to play drums! Any fear of Ringo not being able to keep up was instantly dissuaded, as Hot Chip launched into their classic “I Was a Boy From School,” which sounded amazing live. I was shocked at how pitch-perfect to record Alexis Taylor’s voice sounded, and Al Doyle was definitely the MVP as he switched from guitar to bass to steel drums during the middle of every song. Tracks like “One Life Stand” sounded awesome live due to the amazing steel drum. While Goddard was definitely missed, the rest of the group stepped up with a set that was an instant highlight of the three Chicago Lollapaloozas I have attended. “Over and Over” was unbelievable live and impossible not to dance to, and the only disappointment was they didn’t have time to launch into a few classics like “Out at the Pictures” and “Shake a Fist.” Now I’m really bummed they won’t be coming anywhere close on their latest tour.
7 p.m.: Chromeo (adidas MEGA)
This was my second time seeing Chromeo at Lollapalooza, the first being their first performance in 2008. I didn’t know at the time who they were, but they caught our ear as we walked by and forced us to stop. This time, though, they were slightly disappointing. The duo performed a very solid set but didn’t offer anything new, and didn’t seem quite as fresh. While I didn’t mind seeing them again, they seemed quite a bit higher in the lineup than they deserved to be. I definitely think their good performance in 2008 deserved them to move up, but if you can see almost the same act at 3 p.m. two years ago, it seems disappointing. Of course, they were probably a sensible warm up considering who was next.
8 p.m.: Lady Gaga (Parkways Stage)
This wasn’t exactly my choice, but the spectacle made me a bit more comfortable with the result. Without making a lot of sense, this show was what I was expecting without being exactly what I was expecting. Gaga’s show is what it is—it’s over the top, disturbing, gross and an absolute spectacle. It’s not even close to perfect, though. There’s a bit too much fat with many of the talking parts and it starts to drag (OK, I get that I can be whatever I want to be, thanks). In addition, I would think some of her less popular songs could be trimmed, too. However, after seeing her absolutely covered in sweat and out of breath constantly during the show, nobody can say she doesn’t give it her best.
Her talent is on full display here. I know not everyone is a Gaga fan, but there are some things that even I can’t deny. Her voice is naturally powerful and can switch pitch, speed and tone mid-sentence. She’s also a very talented musician, as her turns on the standup bass, keytar and piano were impressive to say the least. But it is what it is—she won’t change your mind if you aren’t a fan. If you aren’t into giant Jim Henson puppet monsters, bloody corsets and costumes, half-naked men/women/somewhere in between and lingerie that fires sparks, then this show is not for you. But even the haters at Lollapalooza were, without a doubt, impressed by the spectacle and thoughtfulness of the whole show.
Day 1 Recap:
I thought about giving grades to the performances, but everything was solid. I didn’t think anyone would be into reading a bunch of As and Bs for the whole festival. Instead, I figured I would just rank the sets:
Day One:
1.       Hot Chip
2.       DEVO
3.       Matt & Kim
4.       Raphael Saadiq
5.       Lady Gaga
6.       The Constellations
7.       Chromeo
It wasn’t a coincidence that nearly everything we saw was down south on the Parkways and adidas MEGA stages. There’s so much more room down there, and being crowded is a personal pet peeve of mine. In addition, the sound, bathroom and beverage situations are better (you can still hear the bands playing), so any conflict goes easily to the south area. Luckily, most everything I wanted to see was down here, and it turned out to be a fantastic day. How often can you see two of your favorite bands, one of the world’s most energetic, an awesome side stage set, a surprisingly awesome R&B performance and an absolute spectacle? For your money, what more can you ask for? Day One of Lollapalooza 2010 was a rousing success. | Brett Berliner

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