Concert Review: Lollapalooza 2014 (Saturday, August 2, 2014 - Outkast, Jenny Lewis, Vic Mensa, Spoon, Nas, Foster the People and more)

Concert Review: Lollapalooza 2014 (Saturday, August 2, 2014 - Outkast, Jenny Lewis, Vic Mensa, Spoon, Nas, Foster the People and more)

Day two of Lollapalooza 2014 featured outstanding sets from artists like Jenny Lewis, Nas, Spoon and Foster the People as well as one of the year's most anticipated reunions in Outkast... 

While the majority of early crowds on Friday stayed on the south end of Grant Park near Perry's Stage and the Samsung Galaxy Stage, Saturday afternoon saw massive crowds heading north where Nas performed to one of the largest crowds I've seen on the Palladia Stage (Petrillo Bandshell) in several years.

Making his first proper solo performance at Lollapalooza (after performing with Damian Marley at the festival in 2011), Nas ignited the massive throng early.  And while the set could've benefitted from the live band backing he had in 2011, it was hard to argue with the crowd response to songs like "The World is Yours" early on.

"This is one of the best scenes when it's like this in summer in Chicago" said Foster the People frontman Mark Foster reminiscing about the band's breakout performance on the Lollapalooza stage in 2011.  While the band didn't do a lot to distinguish their live show from their albums, tracks like "Helena Beat" were extended a bit giving the band room to spread out in the live setting.  Saturating the set with atmospheric sounds between tracks in lieu of much stage banter, the band was all business delivering material like "Coming of Age" from the recently released Supermodel album.

As has been the case in recent years, the BMI Stage once again saw it's largest crowd gather in anticipation of a homecoming set from one of Chicago's finest homegrown artists.  Last year, Chance the Rapper played to a capacity crowd on that stage and this year it was former Kids These Days rapper Vic Mensa.

Having graced the BMI Stage in 2011 with his former band Kids These Days, Mensa returns home riding high on the success of his critically acclaimed 2013 mixtape INNANETAPE. From it, "Orange Soda" saw the massive crowd lose it's collective mind.  "Hollywood, LA" featured a gorgeous backing track and poignant, intelligent lyrics referencing everything from the radio to Kurt Cobain in a coming of age story that highlighted the set.

Newer material like "Major Payne" was similarly well-received.  "It's f---ing amazing to be back in Chicago, man" said Mensa as the crowd continued to filter in even midway through the set.

Following a much ballyhooed performance at Metro Friday night, Austin, Texas indie-rockers Spoon arrived for seventy-five minutes Saturday evening on the Bud Light Stage.  Making my way from Vic Mensa to Jenny Lewis, I stopped and caught their performance of "The Underdog," one that was relaxing as the sun began to set on Lollapalooza.  The crowd sing along continued shortly thereafter with "I Turn my Camera On."

Following a rare, headlining performance at Lollapalooza in 2013 alongside Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard as The Postal Service, Jenny Lewis returned to Lollapalooza in support of her new solo album The Voyager and told the story of her first experience as a fan at Lollapalooza checking out acts like the Beastie Boys and A Tribe Called Quest in 1994.

Jenny Lewis Live at Lollapalooza 2014 in Chicago (Photo by Jim Ryan)

Photo by Jim Ryan

For forty-five minutes on The Grove stage Saturday night, some of the finest vocals of the weekend were on full display as Lewis cruised through a set that featured not only selections from her three solo albums but also choice Rilo Kiley cuts like "Silver Lining."

Moving from guitar to keyboards throughout, Lewis seemed to be most comfortable when it was her voice as an instrument taking center stage.  From the opening notes of "Just One of the Guys," it was onto choice new Voyager cuts like "Head Underwater" and one of the set's finest moments in "Slippery Slopes."

"Slippery Slopes" allowed her five-piece backing band ample room to stretch out on the emotional, rocking track.  That band also provided stellar backing vocals as Lewis took on "Acid Tongue" armed only with that piercing voice and acoustic guitar.  "I don't know if you know this but I travel with a choir" she joked of her band's outstanding backing harmonies.

But Saturday night's most anticipated set doubled as the year's most surprising reunion:  Outkast.  Atlanta artists André "André 3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton were back together for a 105 minute, headlining performance Saturday night on the Samsung Galaxy Stage in celebration of their twentieth anniversary.

What always set Outkast apart from others in the genre was their ability to seamlessly mend so many different musical styles. Everything from rock to hip-hop and funk to soul was on full display Saturday night at Lollapalooza.

Outkast Live at Lollapalooza 2014 Chicago (Photo by Jim Ryan)

Photo by Jim Ryan

The duo performed solo at times and together at others and was joined frequently by longtime collaborator Sleepy Brown.  But fans who made the trek to Milwaukee in June to see the group at Summerfest were undoubtedly disappointed by Saturday night's setlist for it was exactly the same Saturday night at Lollapalooza as it was in Milwaukee last month.  In fact, there seems to have been little, if any, deviance from that setlist on this entire run of festival reunion dates.

But regardless of the setlist, Saturday saw the duo in fine form tearing through a slew of hits that touched upon just about every corner of their impressive catalog with the set really hitting its stride toward the end moving from "Roses" to "So Fresh, So Clean."  But it was Benjamin who stole the show with his take on one of the 2000's biggest hits in "Hey Ya."  Clad in a shirt that appeared to read, "Across cultures, darker people suffer most. Why?" Andre 3000's performance of the song was the unquestionable highlight of day two at Lollapalooza.

A full backing band, complete with a brass section, powered joyous renditions of hits like "The Way You Move" and deeper cuts like "SpottieOttieDopaliscious" and, following controversial live performances earlier this summer at festivals like Coachella, soundly silenced any potential critics.

- Jim Ryan

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