Lollapalooza 2017 kicked off with rain that culminated in a Thursday night evacuation of Grant Park. Thursday’s slate fetaured performances by Lorde, Muse, George Ezra, Cage the Elephant and more… plus an embarrassingly abbreviated set from former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher…
“Were any of you here the last time I was at Lollapalooza?” asked British singer George Ezra Thursday afternoon during his hour set on the Lake Shore stage. “There was a storm and they evacuated the park. That’s not gonna happen this time.”
Ezra’s prediction ultimately proved incorrect as storms brought an early end to day one of Lollapalooza 2017 with a full evacuation of Grant Park after 9PM only a few songs into sets by headliners Lorde and Muse.
Rain has kind of become synonymous with Lollapalooza over the years with full festival evacuations curtailing early afternoon sets by artists like Alabama Shakes in 2014 and Ezra in 2015, causing a modified schedule for the artists that followed. But never has it caused an abrupt ending of the headlining sets.
Lorde was looking to build on the success of a stunning Lollapalooza appearance in 2014 by showcasing her brand new studio album Melodrama Thursday night. But, after opening with “Tennis Court,” she only made it two more songs into her set before the storms hit.
Muse made it slightly further, working in four songs. Their set ended abruptly with a snippet of AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” closing a rollicking take on “Hysteria.”
“We’ve been told to leave the stage. I’m going to see why,” said singer Matt Bellamy. He wasn’t to return Thursday night.
Fans streaming for the exits already knew the reason and moments later came push notifications of the evacuation through the official Lollapalooza app and via announcements from the stage.
Leaving the Grant Park stage on the festival’s south end, the evacuation went about as smoothly as can be expected when it involves 100,000 concertgoers. Lolla veterans are clearly familiar with the procedure now but there was no shortage of fans upset by the highly shortened sets.
Along with the rain, abbreviated sets defined day one of Lollapalooza 2017.
But more on that later.
Former Oasis vocalist Liam Gallagher performed for one hour Wednesday night at Park West in a Lollapalooza after show and was scheduled for another hour Thursday at 4:30PM on the Grant Park stage, one of the festival’s two main stages.
Wednesday night at Park West, Gallagher opened up his set with scorching takes on a pair of Oasis classics in “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “Morning Glory” before moving to his fine new single “Wall of Glass.” It was a fantastic start to a show that moved in peaks and valleys for the rest of the hour.
The peaks came in the form of sing-a-longs on Oasis cuts like “D’You Know What I Mean?” and “Slide Away.”
“Liam! Liam!” chanted the excited crowd between songs much to the singer’s clear appreciation.
But the valleys came in the form of cuts from his forthcoming solo debut As You Were. The album doesn’t come out until October and he’s only released a pair of singles from it thus far. So the crowd was completely unfamiliar with the majority of the music performed during the set. And crowd reaction reflected the unfamiliarity moving from ridiculous excitement early to general indifference by the end.
Gallagher has finished most shows on his comeback tour with Oasis hits “Be Here Now” and “Wonderwall.” Photos of Wednesday’s Park West setlist were floating around on Twitter and Instagram and both tracks were on it. But, after closing with “Be Here Now,” Gallagher seemed frustrated by the crowd reaction – or lack thereof – and left the stage without performing “Wonderwall.”
I’ve never seen anything like the scene that followed.
The crowd, clearly expecting him to perform “Wonderwall,” stayed mostly assembled on the floor, exchanging confused looks, and refusing to leave, for nearly twenty minutes as, bit by bit, more and more house lights went up.
The volume dropped multiple times on the Beatles cuts that played in the band’s absence, further stoking audience expectations. But roadies were onstage tearing down the group’s equipment and it was clear Gallagher wasn’t coming back.
Entitled audiences today often just assume they’re getting an encore but Gallagher is old school and seemed hell bent on making the crowd earn “Wonderwall.” And it’s hard to fault him for that.
But it was really a communication breakdown on both ends: a crowd unfamiliar with Gallagher’s old school expectations and an artist clearly unfamiliar with what can often be fickle festival crowds in the internet and cell phone era.
Fast forward to Gallagher’s Lollapalooza set early Thursday in the sunshine at 4:30PM.
That’s not the type of festival slot Oasis would’ve ever had to endure. But, despite releasing two albums as a member of the group Beady Eye, As You Were is Gallagher’s first proper solo album since the final Oasis studio release Dig Out Your Soul in 2008. So, for all intents and purposes, whether he realizes it or not – or wants to admit it – he’s starting over.
There was virtually no stage banter during either set and Gallagher barely moves at all on stage. Once a polarizing festival presence, he seems to still be figuring out how to command a stage as a solo act. And you can get away with that in a small venue during a show that was as highly anticipated as Wednesday’s at Park West was. In front of the assembled and impatient festival masses though, you simply can’t.
By Lollapalooza standards, the crowd that turned up for Gallagher’s set Thursday wasn’t a huge one. And if Wednesday’s crowd at Park West became indifferent as the set went on, Thursday’s seemed wholly bored by comparison from the start.
Typically, photographers are allowed to shoot photos during the first three songs of an artist’s set. And Gallagher seemed pleased mugging for them Thursday, opening his Lolla performance with the same three songs he did Wednesday night (one assumes the setlist for his hour festival performance was going to be the same as Wednesday night’s as it hasn’t really changed much at all so far on this tour).
But following “Greedy Soul” fourth in the set, Gallagher, to the seeming confusion of his bandmates, abruptly walked off stage. There was no warning or explanation as he performed about fifteen of the sixty minutes he was scheduled for.
He offered an attempt at an explanation on Twitter, blaming his show at Park West the night before for ruining his voice and causing the abrupt end to his set Thursday.
And since he’s going to blame his voice, it’s worth noting that that voice isn’t what it used to be.
To use a sports analogy, he’s lost a couple of miles off his fastball. It’s nothing alarming yet and he’s still capable of providing an entertaining set. But he can’t hit some of the notes that he used to and that won’t improve with age.
For example, it was the case onstage in June at the One Love Manchester benefit. It remained the case earlier in the week as he performed live on the Howard Stern Show. There was no change Wednesday night at Park West. And if his voice was truly bothering him, there was certainly no noticeable signs of it Thursday afternoon either. In 2017, it is what it is.
Liam Gallagher’s antics over the years have become cliche and predictable.
Some artists would deserve the benefit of the doubt if they chose to blame vocal issues for ending a festival set early.
Liam Gallagher is not that artist.
And if he keeps up these antics, his comeback will be derailed, rendering his new album dead on arrival long before its schedule October release.
Gallagher is scheduled to perform at the Riviera on Tuesday, November 21st so it will be interesting to see how he treats the next few months.
Cage the Elephant offset Gallagher’s embarrassing afternoon with a magnificent set two hours later on the same stage, tearing through their seventy-five minute show with a sense of urgency.
Getting going a minute or two early, the group seemed to be on a mission to drown out George Ezra as he closed his set with “Budapest” across the south end of Grant Park on the nearby Lake Shore stage.
Lollapalooza organizers boasted in the weeks leading up to the festival of improved sound in the massive field looking toward the Grant Park stage, the main stage on the festival’s south end. And they weren’t kidding.
While sound on the adjacent Lake Shore stage still leaves something to be desired if you’re not close, the sound on the Bud Light stage is clear and absolutely blistering, regardless of wind, no matter how far back you are from the stage.
“There’s one race on this planet. There’s one love on this planet,” said Cage singer Matt Shultz. Clad in fishnets and a dress, the singer used his platform to plead for greater general societal acceptance.
Shultz is the definition of a dynamic frontman. Animated and entertaining, the singer made his way into the crowd multiple times during Thursday’s set. He interacted with fans humorously from the field during “Punchin’ Bag.”
But the group really hit its stride with hits like “Trouble,” “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked” and “Mess Around.”
The give and take between band and audience during the acoustic close on “Trouble” was impressive and the slide guitar on “Wicked” sounded particularly great in a city known for its blues.
“Chicago, I love you so much!” boasted Shultz. “You know what’s so powerful about music is its ability to bring people together! We can have one common experience.”
Cage the Elephant has amassed a number of successful singles, using festival appearances to build a massive following that has allowed them to headline small arenas like UIC Pavilion locally. And they seem legitimately grateful for the success.
There was an artist performing earlier in the day that might want to pay attention to how that’s done.
*** For more on Lollapalooza, check out our full 2017 festival preview here: http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-at-night/2017/08/concert-preview-lollapalooza-chicago-2017-grant-park-chance-the-rapper-the-killers-muse-arcade-fire-lorde/
– Jim Ryan ( @RadioJimRyan )