The first day of Lollapalooza 2015 yesterday (July 31) offered a lakeside retreat of delights that included headliner Paul McCartney’s hit-packed set (with a surprise duet from Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard), the Shakes’ own truly inspired rock out, the Weeknd making (musical) love to the crowd, and Tove Lo, Father John Misty, Hot Chip, and St. Paul and the Broken Bones getting the party started in the hot mid afternoon sun at Chicago’s Grant Park. Here are seven of the highlights from day one of the festival.
Tove Lo strode out on to the mid-sized Sprint stage to a surprisingly huge mass of humanity for three o’clock in the afternoon on a Friday, and quickly had them all dancing and singing along to “Talking Body.” Soon, the Swedish queen of the clouds set aside her shades to see us all better despite the bright, hot sunlight, as she rolled through her high-energy 45-minute set. By the time she hit the first familiar notes of “Habits (Stay High),” the crowd was was singing almost as loud as she was. “I’m going to give you everything I have, so give me everything you have,” she announced before “Time Bomb.” Looks like she got her way.
Hot Chip's early time slot didn't stop them from putting on what was quite easily one of the most fun sets of the day: a highlight reel of their myriad studio LPs. Their decade-long output of six consistently great albums has given the band a treasure trove of material to pull from, and the U.K. dance veterans sounded impeccable, giving the crowd a full hour of analog bliss.
What's perhaps most impressive about Hot Chip is their ability to put fresh spins on older classics. "Ready for the Floor," from 2008's Made in the Dark, was ushered in by the band with new, lush arrangement and an incredibly dope vocoder accompaniment. With seven players on stage—including a flawless backbone in drummer Sarah Jones—the band has a lot of fun taking liberties with their existing material.
The coup was the finale, a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark," which segued flawlessly into a shorter cover of LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends." The cover served as a sweet nod to multi-instrumentalist Al Doyle, who also spent time playing in LCD Soundsystem.
Paul McCartney has been playing big stages for decades; the Weeknd has been doing it for just a few years. Friday night, they found themselves playing across the park from each other at the same time and the Weeknd totally delivered, proving his merit as a festival headliner.
Despite hitting the stage a little late and closing a little early, The Weeknd showed that a strong set is more about quality than it is about quantity. His live show is intensely sexual—he opened his set by saying he wanted to "get on top" of "Lollapalooza" (damn, dude), and that he wanted Chicago (even bolder) to "come all night." He commands respect, and it must be said: he pretty much deserves it. Every song in his set hits. There's no filler, no dull moments.
The dude is direct as hell: "I came here all the way from Toronto to fuck shit up tonight." Fair. He had everyone in the palm of his hand. Just give him a little more time, and he'll be able to carry a set that's just as good for twice as long.
Alabama Shakes had been waiting for their moment to rock Lollapalooza since a thunderstorm forced the cancellation of their 2012 set. So it’s no wonder that Brittany Howard took command with her passionate blues-rock pipes and riffs from the second they hit the big Bud Light stage a bit before 6pm by coming straight out of the gate with the delectable grooves of “Future People” from fantastic new sophomore album “Sound & Color.” They jammed through choice cuts from both the new album and their 2012 debut “Boys & Girls” (“Heartbreaker,” “You Ain’t Alone”). Under a perfect blue sky with Chicago’s mayor looking on from sidestage, Howard was rocking her guitar so hard on current cut “Dunes” that her glasses flew off and the sound cut out, as the band played on. “We broke the f*cking P.A. system!” she announced with a mixture of pride and awe after the sound issue was quickly fixed. Yes, ma’am, you sure did, and that was before they even got to the raw power of “Don’t Wanna Fight” and “Gimme All Your Love.”
Multi-year Lollapalooza veterans Cold War Kids turned in a hardworking mid-afternoon set on the big Samsung stage Friday afternoon, but they gave a smart wink-and-nod to headliner Paul McCartney when they delved deep into his bandmate John Lennon’s solo catalog for a cover of Lennon’s 1971 gem “Well Well Well.”
It pays to get to Lollapalooza early-ish on the first day. Those who did got to catch the 7-piece soul extravaganza of Alabama’s St. Paul & The Broken Bones, who delivered a stirring early afternoon, hour-long revue on the huge Bud Light stage, sweating it out in suits like the true professionals they are.
The odds were already stacked in favor of Sir Paul giving Chicago a good time at Lollapalooza Friday night: the man is Beatle and a legend besides. It should come as no surprise that he knows how to rock a multi-generational festival audience. Paul McCartney’s two-plus-hour headlining set took the many thousands gathered in Grant Park on a tour through his whole career from Beatles through Wings (including a pyro-fantastic “Live And Let Die”) and up through the solo years. But aside from “4-5 Seconds” (which ignited a roar of approval and a singalong) it was the iconic 60s tunes that really owned the crowd.
After telling the story of seeing Jimi Hendrix try to convince Eric Clapton to play guitar tech, Macca peeled off “Paperback Writer” on the original axe he used for the song back in the day. “Blackbird,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Let It Be” were just a few of the goodies, and you could feel it your heart during the all-out singalong for “Hey Jude.” But when McCartney brought out Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard for a truly inspired “Get Back” duet on vocals and guitar, the delight factor ratcheted up even more.