Concert Review: Lollapalooza - Saturday, July 30, 2016 in Grant Park - X Ambassadors, The Joy Formidable, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Big Grams

Concert Review: Lollapalooza - Saturday, July 30, 2016 in Grant Park - X Ambassadors, The Joy Formidable, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Big Grams

Saturday, Lollapalooza finally got off to a dry start with performances by X Ambassadors, The Joy Formidable, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Big Grams and more with a surprise guest appearance by Prophets of Rage guitarist Tom Morello… 


Dry conditions were a welcome departure Saturday from the rain that fell on festival grounds during the first two days of Lollapalooza and fans turned out accordingly, complaining of overly high wait times trying to enter the festival.

I spoke with several fans around 4PM during Nathaniel Rateliff’s set who claim to have waited in line at the festival’s main gate for a whopping 80 minutes. So it would seem that fans heading downtown Sunday might want to consider an early start and be ready for long entry lines.

Saturday got off to a spiritual start on the festival’s south end with an hour long set from X Ambassadors on the Samsung stage.

“It’s like all the attractive people in the world decided to come here and hang out for the day” said frontman Sam Harris who moved from bass to guitar and saxophone throughout Saturday’s set.

Midway through their set the band turned Grant Park into an all out sing-a-long as the crowd carried the vocal for a stirring take of “Unsteady.”

“I needed that. I hope it felt good for you too” said Harris, clearly moved by the moment.

From there, the band kicked it up a notch with the searing guitar of Noah Feldshuh on “Gorgeous.” The guitar playing on the track was terrific but it was soon to be eclipsed entirely as the band welcomed Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave/Prophets of Rage guitarist Tom Morello to the stage to guest on their studio collaboration “Collider.”

Morello’s guitar playing on “Collider” is closer to his trademark Rage riffing than anything he’s done recently and the song was an early highlight Saturday afternoon in Grant Park. British vocalist Jamie N Commons also joined the band contributing vocals and guitar on “Low Life” and “Jungle” before X Ambassadors closed the star studded set with “Renegades.”

On the north end of Grant Park, Welsh alt rock trio The Joy Formidable was wrapping up on the Bud Light stage as Nathaniel Rateliff got ready to take the stage across the field at Petrillo Bandshell.

Closing the set with an extended, nearly ten minute take on their biggest hit, “Whirring,” guitarist and vocalist Ritzy Bryan was a whirling dervish, pogoing across the stage before kneeling down at her effects pedals, closing out the performance with a long, distorted cacophony of  guitar drenched feedback before launching her guitar into a gong.

While sound has been drastically improved on the south end of the park, it remains a muddy mess on the north end at Petrillo Bandshell. Home to the city’s Taste of Chicago concerts for many years, the venue is notorious for poor sound, particularly in the wind. But Nathaniel Rateliff did his best to tame it.

“This is the first song I ever wrote for the Night Sweat. I never imagined being here with all of you” said the singer humbly of both his band and his audience in describing “Trying so Hard not to Know.” A slow burn with a chugging beat, the track was a highlight of a set that put the spotlight firmly on the Night Sweats, most notably on “I Need Never Get Old” which opened it.

One of the more interesting collaborations to take place on a Lollapalooza stage in recent memory is that of Big Grams – the musical partnership between rapper Big Boi of OutKast and electronic duo Phantogram.

“I’m a guy’s guy, what can I say?” rationalized Phantogram vocalist Sarah Barthel as she implored female audience members to bare their breasts, which became a theme throughout as she went on to make the request repeatedly over the course of Big Grams’ hour on the Samsung stage.

Performing for the first time at Lollapalooza since a triumphant headlining set with OutKast in 2014, Big Boi sported a cap bearing a gold Chicago Bulls emblem and was most effective as Big Grams covered OutKast on tracks like “Ms. Jackson” and “The Way You Move.”

Big Grams covered a lot of ground hitting on not just OutKast but upon Phantogram material, Big Boi’s solo work and choice cuts from their self-titled 2015 studio collaboration. From that album, “Fell in the Sun” came late in the set and proved appropriate as the sun shined down upon Grant Park for the most prolonged stretch of the weekend thus far.

– Jim Ryan (@RadioJimRyan)

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