Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lollapalooza 2010 day one: Devo, Matt and Kim, The Black Keys, Lady Gaga

Devo at Lollapalooza (photo: Susan Schomburg)
One day down, two to go. The first day of the 2010 Lollapalooza festival in Grant Park went pretty well. It's obviously big, and there are a lot of people not being as nice to each other as they should be, but overall, things went okay.

For me, the first stand-out performance of the day came from new-wave legends Devo, who are still very much alive and kicking. Their live show was intense and exciting, and came with herky-jerky dancing, artsy projections on a screen, and lots of matching uniforms. The energy ran high throughout the set, while fans--including many sporting plastic Devo hats--danced and jumped and sang along to their songs. The band were clearly having a good time, and fed off the audience's energy, making their performance even better.

I caught the start of Matt and Kim's set on my way from Devo, and they were just as I remembered them: energetic and fun, with pulsing rhythms and nice keyboard riffs. Matt gave shout-outs to Lake Michigan and the City of Chicago before going back into the set. I wanted to see more, and so did many others--all sorts of people just stopped in the middle of the walkways to watch the set.

The Black Keys were my top pick for Friday's festival, and I am happy to say they were very good live, indeed. Their sound is so big live, you keep forgetting it's just two guys banging away on guitar and drums, but that just makes them more awesome. They delivered an hour of thick, gritty grooves in the blues-rock tradition, starting out the set with older material. They were joined midway through by bass and keyboard players, and proceeded to play several songs off their latest album (Brothers, which is shaping up to be one of the best albums of the year). When they reached their latest single, "Tighten Up," it seemed like the whole audience sang along. The band closed their set as a duo once more, playing more of their earlier material, including "Your Touch" and fantastic set closer "I Got Mine." In spite of being scheduled until 7:15 (not 7) and the audience's hoots and hollers, the band did not come back on to play a few more, a disappointment to more than one fan in the audience. At least they left us wanting more.

Man, though. Lady Gaga really let me down. The first half-hour of her set (which, given the quality, was all I stayed for) was just not very good. It was slow-paced and pretentious and just...dull. It wasn't very visually appealing, and I was actually somewhat shocked she's got such a reputation as a performer if that's what she brings to her live show. I would suggest you just watch her videos and not bother with her live, except that, from the opposite end of the park, at The Strokes' opposing headliner show, I saw fireworks and laser beams coming from where Gaga was performing. I suspect perhaps she held back during the first part of her set to weed out those people (like me) who were just there to see what all the fuss was about, rather than the faithful many who stayed for the whole set in spite of the stinky beginning. Afterwards, blocks away from the fest, her set was still clearly audible in the streets.

When Lady Gaga failed to live up to her headliner status, I headed over to see The Strokes (who I'd never seen live before). They delivered what Gaga hadn't--an exciting live show to end the evening. Their set got people moving and shaking, even at the back of the park.

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