Concert Review: Lollapalooza - Saturday, August 5, 2017 In Grant Park - Glass Animals, Royal Blood, Live, alt-J And Chance The Rapper

Concert Review: Lollapalooza - Saturday, August 5, 2017 In Grant Park - Glass Animals, Royal Blood, Live, alt-J And Chance The Rapper

A late end Saturday morning to a Foo Fighters after show that began Friday night at Metro resulted in a slow start for many festivalgoers in the morning. But the rain held off Saturday and day three at Lollapalooza 2017 featured performances by Glass Animals, Royal Blood, newly reunited Live, alt-J, The xx and more. Plus one of Lollapalooza’s largest ever Chicago crowds assembled at the Grant Park stage for a homecoming set by Chance the Rapper… 

Some concertgoers got off to a late start Saturday morning following one of the more anticipated after shows in recent Lollapalooza history Friday night ran well into Saturday’s earliest hours.

Foo Fighters performed on stage at Metro for nearly three and a half hours Friday night, a concert that ended just before 3AM Saturday morning. “They gave us a 4AM curfew,” confirmed frontman Dave Grohl. “Should we start digging into the 4 o’clock in the morning s–t?” he joked.

Featuring a mix of classics, covers and new music from their forthcoming September album release Concrete and Gold (their ninth), the band plowed through one of the weekend’s most enjoyable sets with a little help from Perry Farrell during a scorching take on “Mountain Song” by Jane’s Addiction.

In 1995, Foo Fighters performed their first ever show in Chicago at Metro on a bill that also featured Eddie Vedder as the opening act for former Minutemen founder Mike Watt. Grohl’s relationship with Metro dates back to early performances there drumming for Nirvana as well.

This year’s after show slate is one of the more impressive in recent Lollapalooza memory, with Metro serving as ground zero for the biggest, most surprising shows: Foo Fighters Friday night, Arcade Fire Saturday and The Head and the Heart Sunday.

Some concertgoers skipped the festival entirely, opting to make a week strictly out of after shows which started as early as Tuesday night, giving concertgoers an unparalleled opportunity to catch major headlining acts in small Chicago venues on six consecutive evenings.

“It ain’t gonna f—ing rain in here,” joked Grohl of the band’s placement indoors Friday night at Metro. But it stayed dry Saturday at Grant Park too and the few isolated areas with mud that started to develop on Friday were just about back to normal on Saturday.

One of Saturday’s, if not the weekend’s, most impressive acts was UK rock duo Royal Blood. They’re two guys that sound like five, producing an immense wall of sound that’s as unique anything in the world of rock today.

High praise for the group has come from such rock luminaries as Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. “They play with the spirit of the things that have preceded them, but you can hear they’re going to take rock into a new realm – if they’re not already doing that. It’s music of tremendous quality,” he said in 2014.

Saturday, the group got their hour set on the Lake Shore stage started with “Where are you Now?” from their brand new sophomore studio effort, June’s How Did We Get So Dark?

Royal Blood's Mike Kerr - Photo by Jim Ryan

Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr – Photo by Jim Ryan

“Lights Out” was driven by the soars and dives of bassist Mike Kerr who manages to sound like a lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist and bassist all at the same time thanks to his unique playing of the bass guitar and and an arsenal of effects pedals.

The grooves on the new album are more danceable than those on their self-titled 2014 debut. But Saturday they took on a ferocious edge in the live setting driving one of the day’s most hard rocking sets.

Kerr moved to the keyboards to start “Hole in Your Heart,” switching between keys and bass throughout. It’s indicative of the range exhibited on the new album and it’s to the band’s eternal credit that they’re still creating these sounds on stage together as opposed to phoning it in via recorded samples or hidden touring musicians.

“Let me introduce you to someone very special…” said Kerr midway through Saturday’s set. “The rest of the f—ing band!” he joked in reference to his partner in musical crime, drummer Ben Thatcher. Kerr picked up a bottle of Jack Daniels, made his way off stage and allowed Thatcher to shine during a brief drum solo.

The band’s biggest hit “Figure it Out,” hit about three quarters of the way through their hour driving the young crowd into a frenzy.

Across Grant Park on the festival’s north end, a massive crowd was in attendance as a set on the Bud Light main stage by Vance Joy gave way to 90s nostalgia in the form of recently reunited alt rockers Live.

Despite their massive success in the 90s, at the peak of Lollapalooza’s popularity as a travelling alternative festival, Live never joined the circus, making their first ever Lollapalooza appearances this year at a Friday night after show at Park West and Saturday evening set on the Tito’s Handmade Vodka stage (AKA Petrillo Bandshell).

Many reunited bands are wary of the festival circuit. But, as Kowalczyk told me last week, Live embraces it. “You get to play to so many new people and play to the longtime fans,” he said. “It’s so much fun as an artist because to play your show and then stand on the side of the stage to watch Band of Horses next is just great. It’s different than a normal tour. It’s just a lot better.”

The success of Live’s set was one of the most pleasant surprises of the weekend. Singer Ed Kowalczyk remains in terrific vocal shape, fronting a full reunion of the group’s classic lineup, a six piece group which was augmented Saturday by the presence of a second drummer for the entire hour set.

“We took a short break…” said Kowalczyk. “It was about a seven year hangover but it’s great to be back with my brothers,” explained the vocalist of the group’s 2009 breakup.

The group opened with “All Over You,” one of the bigger singles off their massive 1994 studio release Throwing Copper. Prior to Chance the Rapper, it provided one of the more impressive Saturday sing-a-longs.

The band missed the opportunity to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Throwing Copper during the breakup and are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their studio debut Mental Jewelry instead. That album got the reissue treatment last week, accompanied by a live set recorded in 1992 at the Roxy in Los Angeles.

Saturday’s set featured well received takes on “Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)” and “Pain Lies on the Riverside” from it early in the set.

But the show really hit it’s stride with “The Dolphin’s Cry.” Kowalczyk was at his most animated, stalking the stage with a passion that continues to set him apart. The band may have had some sound issues on that as guitarist Chad Taylor made his way behind the amps. But the booming bass of Patrick Dahlheimer gave the song a thunderous, almost sinister feel and proved one of the set’s biggest successes as it led directly into “Selling the Drama.”

The group worked in audio of Johnny Cash talking about learning from his mistakes before heading into a cover of “I Walk the Line” which moved from acoustic to electric courtesy of a searing Taylor solo.

“This song is one of the many amazing gifts given to us by the incomparable Chris Cornell,” said Kowalczyk as Live put their spin on a moving cover of Audioslave’s “I am the Highway.”

The lyrics of Live’s “White Discussion” have taken on a new meaning in 2017. “Give me a sign with your hands if you’re sick of watching the news,” plead Kowalczyk. The crowd responded via thousands of waving fingers. “One thing I’ll tell you about the crazy times we live in… Music is more important than it’s ever been, people,” continued the singer.

The group’s powerful, rollicking take on “White Discussion” Saturday proved that it’s possible for a reunion to carry with it more than mere nostalgia, showing that just maybe Live has a bit more left in the tank.

The group closed their Lollapalooza set with the crowd taking over vocals on one of the 90s most successful ballads, “Lightning Crashes.”

alt-J, Lollapalooza Chicago 2017 - Photo by Jim Ryan

alt-J, Lollapalooza Chicago 2017 – Photo by Jim Ryan

“Lollapalooza! It’s our third time here! We love this city and we love you,” said alt-J vocalist Joe Newman. “Enjoy Chance the Rapper. I know we will,” he continued in a precursor to what was still to come later Saturday night on the same stage.

alt-J had seventy-five minutes Saturday night with which to display their unique take on indie rock.

Ubiquitous guitar driven hit “Left Hand Free” led into the electronic stylings of “Breezeblocks” to close a successful set on the Grant Park stage.

Fans often complain when headliners are scheduled at the same time on opposite ends of the park. But it’s done to spread 100,000 concertgoers out across the festival and avoid having too large of a crowd all rush to one section of the park.

The Killers performed to a large crowd Friday night as did the Red Hot Chili Peppers last year. I wasn’t there for it but am told Kanye West’s 2008 homecoming performance was also immense.

But I’ve attended Lollapalooza in Grant Park in 2005 and every year since 2012. And the crowd gathered in Hutchinson Field Saturday night on Grant Park’s south end for Chance the Rapper is the biggest I’ve personally witnessed.

Stairways off Columbus leading into the west side of the field were so packed a half hour before the performance started that it was virtually impossible to navigate them down into the field. Once you made it down, good luck getting back up.

With homegrown EDM star Kaskade performing simultaneously on the nearby Perry’s stage opposite The xx on the festival’s north end, it was pretty easy to predict that the size of Chance the Rapper’s audience would be significant.

But it speaks to what Chance the Rapper represents and how the city of Chicago has rallied around him as a positive story in a negative local news cycle often dominated by violence, corruption and racism.

Forget pyro to close a set, Chance made his way to the Grant Park main stage for his first ever Lollapalooza headlining appearance (and first Lolla performance since 2013) as fireworks exploded to start the show.

“Blessings” came second Saturday night and was an appropriate way to start a show by a star who usually goes out of his way to sound humble when talking about both his city and his career.

“I know there’s a lot of people who came here just to hear this song,” he said heading into a Kanye West medley that began with “Waves.”

“Hi. My name is Chance the Rapper. I’m from Chicago, Illinois. The south side to be exact,” informed the rapper to any audience members who might be unaware. It was his intro for a look back at the 2015 Social Experiment album Surf.

Live rap and hip hop is at it’s best when it’s powered by a live backing band. And, in The Social Experiment, Chance has one of the genre’s best. Kids These Days alums Nico Segal (formerly Donnie Trumpet) and Greg Landfair, Jr. (aka Stix) provide the backbone on trumpet and drums respectively, while his terrific background singers flesh out the songs beautifully in the live setting.

From Surf, “Sunday Candy” shined Saturday night at Lollapalooza, giving Chance quite the stage from which to thank his grandmother.

Speculation was rampant all week about who he would bring out Saturday night as a featured Lollapalooza guest. Local rapper Vic Mensa (yet another Kids These Days veteran) and Francis and the Lights all joined at various points Saturday night.

“Chicago, can I just take a sec to say thank you?” said Chance.

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

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

*** For more on Friday Lollapalooza performances by Phantogram, Tegan and Sara, Ryan Adams, Run the Jewels and The Killers, check out our full day two recap:


– Jim Ryan ( @RadioJimRyan )

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