Saturday at Lollapalooza 2015 saw a fun mix of black-shirted metal fans and pastel-clad R&B heads streaming to opposite ends of the festival grounds to take in cool sets by Metallica and Sam Smith. But by the time the two headliners held their crowds rapt under a huge pink moon, Tame Impala, Kid Cudi and a number of others had already made it a fantastic day of music in Chicago’s Grant Park. These are the eight best sets Fuse caught at Lollapalooza on Saturday (August 1)…
Tame Impala's set was the epitome of the right band at the right place at the right time. They took to the festival's largest stage as the sun was ducking in and out of cloud cover, accompanied by a perfectly warm late-afternoon breeze. The band opened with lead Currents single "Let it Happen," and in that moment, the crowd was theirs. Tame Impala's perfectly produced sound combined with Lollapalooza nearing sunset, providing an unbeatable festival experience.
What the set amounted to was a back-and-forth sparring match between standouts from Lonerism and Currents, culminating in an extraordinarily powerful rendition of the former's "Apocalypse Dreams."
Foregoing the jammy nature that their sets took on in the band's formative years, Tame Impala focused on playing as many songs as possible within the 60 minute slot. Kevin Parker's guitar sounded even better than it does on record. After seeing what they had to give Lollapalooza, it's clear this band is knocking on the door of headliner status.
The Lollapalooza schedule always lists a “special guest” for 15 minutes each day on the Kidzapalooza stage. Saturday afternoon that slot was filled by festival founder Perry Farrell rocking through two Jane's Addiction classics (“Ocean Size” and “Mountain Song”) with an ad hoc band that included bassist Robert Trujillo from headliners Metallica! It’s not every day that you can roll up to the barricade at a picnic-meets-club-show and see a couple of masters at work. Bonus points if you got there even earlier and caught young rockers The Helmets roil through a Led Zeppelin cover.
Acoustic performance of a new song? Check. Endless energy and good will flowing back and forth off the massive stage while Kid Cudi had the masses rapping along with him almost all set long? Check. Fellow rappers Vic Mensa and Tyler, the Creator witnessing the action from the front rail? Yup. Cudi had easily already earned his spot among Lollapalooza 2015’s best Saturday performances and then he made it even better by jumping down off the stage and running back and forth to commune with as much of the huge audience directly as possible. “Pursuit of Happiness”? Yeah, he not only performed that, he achieved it for so many during that all-too-brief hour on Saturday evening. “This is my fourth Lollapalooza and it just keeps getting better,” he announced with a huge smile. “You are me. I am you.”
While Metallica doled out the riffage at one end of Grant Park, Sam Smith’s smooth croon soundtracked a date night vibe down at the other end. Smith, whose lovely banter about his breakthrough hit “Stay With Me” and his sister’s birthday endeared him even more to the already smitten crowd, took his Lollapalooza debut beyond the de rigueur with a string of covers that proved to be especially on point. On this beautiful summer night, Smith busted out an Amy Winehouse cover during a medley that also included Chic’s “Le Freak.”
Summer sun and energetic, irreverent pop made for fun in the middle of afternoon courtesy of Charli XCX. She pulled out her Icona Pop jam “I Love It” early and had the crowd eating out of her hand from there on out. Most Lollapalooza performers ask how great everyone is, but Charli wanted to know, “Are you feeling bad?!” and in response to the huge roar she got in response, she commanded people to get on each other’s shoulders and dozens immediately obeyed.
Brand New, among the best bands from the punk/emo scene in the early aughts, had the unenviable task of immediately following Tame Impala directly across the field. But this isn't the band's first rodeo, and with a new album on the way, it's clearly not their last. There's a reason they had the slot directly before Metallica—sonically, they're ultra-heavy, and their songs hit you directly in your gut.
The band led with newer material like "Mene" and tracks from Daisy. This was all well and fine, but once they delved into material from The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me—as well as select standouts from their first two LPs — Brand New hit their stride. And goddamn was it satisfying.
Halfway through the set, guitarist Vincent Accardi led his Strat through a David Gilmour-esque solo complete with Floydian drums and atmospherics, which all disassembled nicely into the opening of "You Won't Know," one of the band's fiercest, most visceral songs.
If anything, Brand New's powerful heart-on-sleeve heroism is the perfect compliment to the fine-tuned specificity of Tame Impala's live production, combining for one of the fest's best one-two rock combos this weekend.
Early in the set, James Hetfield asked the crowd how many people were Metallica virgins, which was followed by loud cheering. Three decades into their career, the new fans are still flocking in.
Still they didn't forget the longtime listeners: the band played the entirety of their headlining set with a mass of diehards to their rear, as if they invited the entire sidestage to hang out amongst their backline. Playing a big festival stage can seem distant, so this their way of bringing intimacy to the entire epic affair as they pounded through a two-hour set filled with favorites like "Sad But True," "One," "Master of Puppets" back-to-back.