Concert Review: Lollapalooza - Friday, August 4, 2017 In Grant Park - Phantogram, Tegan And Sara, Ryan Adams, Foster The People, Run The Jewels, The Killers And Blink-182

Concert Review: Lollapalooza - Friday, August 4, 2017 In Grant Park - Phantogram, Tegan And Sara, Ryan Adams, Foster The People, Run The Jewels, The Killers And Blink-182

Day two at Lollapalooza was for the most part dry, featuring performances by Phantogram, Tegan And Sara, Ryan Adams, Foster The People, Run The Jewels, The Killers, Blink-182 and more… 

Lollapalooza grounds were surprisingly dry Friday afternoon despite all of the rain that fell on Thursday.

Minor showers passed through again about 5PM but produced nary a drizzle and, even on the festival’s south end, notorious for flooding and muddy conditions near the Grant Park stage, the grounds were fairly easily traversable. Isolated pockets of mud were easy to avoid and, all things considered, the condition of Grant Park was a pleasant surprise.

“This is the first song Sarah and I ever wrote together,” declared Josh Carter Friday of his collaboration with partner Sarah Barthel as Phantogram.

Following an aftershow Thursday night at House of Blues, Phantogram moved through an hour of electronic alternative and hip hop sounds on the Grant Park stage.

“We put Bill Murray on the list. Have you guys seen him?” Barthel asked the crowd Friday. “Dammit, Bill. Why can’t you be friends with me?” she continued playfully as the band worked their way into party call to arms, “Calling All.”

“Did you guys see Tegan and Sara kickin’ ass over there? That was f—ing awesome!” declared Ryan Adams Friday afternoon midway through his set at Petrillo Bandshell across Butler Field from the Bud Light main stage on Lollapalooza’s north end.

Tegan and Sara Quin have moved from early recordings that leaned more toward alternative to unabashed, intelligent, electronically driven pop music.

And, as is frequently the case, one of the most entertaining elements of the entire Lollapalooza weekend was Tegan and Sara’s witty repartee between songs.

This year, Sara seemed particularly nonplussed by the festival’s almost empty VIP section directly in front of the stage. “You guys have to step up,” she joked. “I’m not going to continue the show until you put your hands up,” she said to the typically bored group wasting the festival’s best seats.

She made friendly sport of the VIP section throughout the set culminating in her leaving the stage to hug them. It led to a hilarious play-by-play from Tegan as Sara left the stage.

“Sara’s going to give some hugs. This is a very Canadian thing to do. Give a hand for Sara! I would’ve never done that. You look really frantic, Sara – not even remotely like a rock star. Try to make it look cooler,” joked Tegan of her sister’s efforts.

“It smells like horses–t down there,” confirmed Sara of the damp conditions on the festival’s north end as she returned to the stage. “Sara. Alienating the VIP section every night!” responded Tegan.

But in addition to funny moments, the Canadian twin sisters also produced some of Friday’s best music.

2016’s Love You to Death is the group’s eighth studio album and continues the leap forward into experimental electronic sounds and straight forward pop that began in 2013 on the Heartthrob album. From it, the duo performed the album’s final two cuts toward the end of Friday’s set. “Hang on to the Night” is tailor made for the festival setting while the addictive hooks in “U-Turn” are powered by bass and keyboard.

Tegan and Sara closed their set on the Bud Light main stage with a rousing sing-a-long on the infectious “Closer.”

Lollapalooza 2017 Buckingham Fountain Chicago - Photo by Jim Ryan

Photo by Jim Ryan

Following up one of the week’s best after shows (Ryan Adams performed for over two hours Thursday night at the Vic Theatre), Ryan Adams took to the Tito’s Handmade Vodka stage (AKA Petrillo Bandshell) for an hour Friday making the case once again for the strength of his latest studio material.

Adams’ two most recent albums – 2014’s self-titled effort and 2017’s Prisoner – are two of the most festival ready he’s ever written, featuring big, big electric hooks that benefit greatly from the full band treatment of the incredibly tight five piece group that he fronts.

Riding high on that success, the prolific Adams drew from that material immediately, opening the show, as he did Thursday at the Vic, with the haunting “Do You Still Love Me?” Powered by both organ and spastic bursts of guitar, the song soared Friday in Grant Park. The equally haunting “Gimme Something Good” came third in the set both nights and set the tone for two terrific live sets.

“I’ve been so sick and you guys have been so nice!” gushed Adams Friday. He mentioned on stage Thursday at the Vic that he had the flu and rested all day before the show (cracking a joke about another infamous concert he performed in Chicago while sick and the infamous voicemail he left a Chicago critic who dared to pan the performance).

That Adams was sick makes both performances that much more impressive. And, despite being under the weather, he was as personable as ever, singing an impromptu “Happy Birthday” to a girl in the audience near the stage.

His emotive solo on “When the Stars go Blue” was fantastic but it was the full band treatment on tracks like “Everybody Knows” that was particularly impressive. The addition of organ to a studio track based largely on acoustic guitar and storytelling was impressive Friday while “Dirty Rain” turned into an all band jam. The group seems entirely able to switch gears on Ryan’s lead at any given moment.

“This song is called ‘New York, New York.’ But it’s about a girl that lives in Chicago,” explained Adams, launching into a bluesy take on one of his biggest hits. Augmented by extra guitar and Adams on harmonica, it was a highlight Friday in Grant Park. 

And Friday’s set was rife with references to Chicago – from the performance of “Dear Chicago” itself to a shout out to Bloodshot Records preceding a look back at his 2000 studio solo debut Heartbreaker. The band attempted to close the main set with a rollicking, rootsy take on “Shakedown on 9th Street” but wound up finishing up a little too early.

“I don’t know what happened. We finished early. We have nine minutes left,” explained Adams as the group opted instead to close the set with a drawn out jam on “Magnolia Mountain.”

Lollapalooza Chicago 2017 - Photo by Jim Ryan

Photo by Jim Ryan

On the other end of the festival, it was the polar opposite, as one of hip hop’s hottest acts dominated the Grant Park stage on the festival’s south end.

Run the Jewels is unique not just for the fiery exchanges between Killer Mike and El-P in song but for the socially conscious interplay between the songs as well.

El-P took a few minutes to laud his partner in crime for the outspoken political stances he’s taken over the course of the last year both on stage and on the road in support of Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

El-P cited Killer Mike as his inspiration and the love the two rappers and friends share is clear.

Just as they did on stage at the Aragon Ballroom in February, the duo brought an incredible amount of energy and passion to their live set Friday. The call and respond a cappella intro to “Lie, Cheat, Steal” was incredible to behold in the festival setting as it led into the electronically driven beat of “Call Ticketron.”

“We’re the Killers – brought to you by way of Las Vegas, Nevada!” declared vocalist Brandon Flowers as the alternative quartet took to the Grant Park stage in front of an immense crowd on the festival’s south end.

It was a sea of humanity rivaling that which gathered in Hutchinson Field to watch the Red Hot Chili Peppers last year and could serve as a precursor for what’s still to come Saturday night as Chance the Rapper takes to the same stage for his biggest homecoming performance yet (opposite EDM superstar, and Northbrook native, Kaskade on the nearby Perry’s stage).

The group opened with the latest single from their forthcoming studio album Wonderful Wonderful, their fifth. The disco bass line of “The Man” got their performance started but they wasted no time getting to the hits as “Somebody Told Me” immediately followed.

“No rain! We’re all safe!” declared Flowers in reference to headlining sets that were cancelled early the night before as Grant Park was evacuated abruptly due to severe weather. “Did you you all miss out on Muse last night? We’ll try to make it up to you as best we can!”

The group shouted out Elvis as they waxed nostalgic, looking back on “The Way it Was” following Flowers’ assurance.

The keyboard drenched new wave influence on “Smile Like You Mean It” was an early highlight as was a cover of Joy Division’s “Shadowplay.” The group also worked in a special cover of “Disarm” by Chicago’s own Smashing Pumpkins.

The Pumpkins cover was an appropriate one not just for it’s Chicago connection but also because of it’s connection to the Killers as bassist Mark Stoermer toured alongside Billy Corgan and company as bassist following the release of their 2014 studio effort Monuments to an Elegy.

*** For more on Lollapalooza, check out our full 2017 festival preview:

*** For a full review of Thursday Lollapalooza performances by Liam Gallagher, George Ezra, Cage the Elephant, Muse and more, check out our full day one recap:


– Jim Ryan ( @RadioJimRyan )

Leave a comment