The 2007 Lollapalooza may have been one of the biggest and (at times) most exciting music festivals ever. But it was also one of the most congested and overcrowded.
During performances by the bigger acts, it took more than 25 minutes to walk from one side of the park to another and the both the water and the press tents were should have been more accessible.
The line-up of acts was inspired and diverse, but it was almost impossible to see the biggest acts up close unless you got to the stage really early. There were also many times when several superb acts played at once.
The festival had more terrific world music than previous Lollapaloozas (most of the best international acts appeared on Friday.) The Nigerian Afro-pop singer, Femi Kuti and Positive Force kept the audience’s feet moving with their funky grooves at the same time and they kept them thinking with his politically charged lyrics. The Sri Lankan grime goddess, M.I.A. rapped on songs with bomb sounds, machine gun noises, plus Asian Music samples. She proved she can hold her own against any American hip-hop performer. Finally, the big headliners, Daft Punk (they dress like robots) offered a hip French update of disco, and they got the biggest audience reaction with an extended version of their big international hit,” Around the World.”
Saturday offered the most solid lineup, with one triumphant performance after another. The Mexican acoustic guitar duo, Rodrigo y Gabriela performed well on a distinctive set which included a very odd but enjoyable cover of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." Stephen (Bob’s son) Marley evoked his father in a cheerful and socially conscious set of reggae songs (including “Buffalo Soldier”), and he did some impressive dancehall reggae vocalizing. Psychedelic/garage rock legend, Roky Erickson delivered a set almost as powerful as his performance at Intonation Festival climaxing with a sizzling version of the13th Floor Elevators song, "You're Gonna Miss Me." . Punk poet Patti Smith’s set had slow spots (including a restrained reading of Nirvana’s "Smells like Teen Spirit”), but her closing (which included a stunningly inspired version of "Rock' N Roll Nigger”) was as powerful as anything else in the festival. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs delivered a fine set of punk/no wave (not new wave) tinged alternative rock songs which included their big hit “Maps.” Their early rawer songs went down better than the more polished ones from the last CD. But the flamboyant and charismatic front woman, Sharon O, (who was dressed like a dominatrix) proved herself to be a legitimate heir of Courtney Love and Shirley Manson.
Sunday was spottier but it had its share of bright spots. Juliette and the Licks lacked originality but they made up for it in enthusiasm. The band is fronted by actress Juliette Lewis sporting war paint on her face and a feather on her head. Their more-than-competent set of Joan Jett and Pat Benatar influenced songs included an interesting metal/funk version of Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff." Amy Winehouse delivered the most soulful vocalizing in the whole event, and she did searing versions of “You Know I’m No Good,” “Rehab,” as well as a surprising reggae version of “Cupid.” The headliner, Pearl Jam went through an energetic and well received (if predictable) set which included first rate guitar work and excellent Robert Plant-like vocalizing (At its best the band evoked Led Zeppelin at their prime). The band also encouraged listeners to boycott B.P Amoco gas stations until they agree not to dump more waste into Lake Michigan. TV on the Radio set easily topped Pearl Jam’s. They gave a magnificent atmospheric performance that somehow managed to evoke ‘60s soul music and Radiohead at the same time.
But Iggy and the Stooges gave the most explosive and dangerous performance, although most of the set was composed of classics from 1969-1970 including “No Fun,” "Dirt," “I Wanna be Your Dog” and a few newer tunes such as “Skull Ring.” “Fun House” was greatly enhanced by the soulful sax playing of original Stooge, Steve MacCay. At the climax of the show Iggy invited audience members to join him and over 250 people danced on-stage to his classic proto punk classics (most of the dancers were younger than the songs). Iggy and the Stooges were the undisputed highlight of the festival, and they were as powerful as any live band I’ve ever seen.
A few acts missed their mark. Both Modest Mouse and Interpol make top notch recordings, but they weren’t quite as exciting live. The self proclaimed retro sexual, Lady GaGa had nothing in her sound to distinguish her from a thousand other model-like dance/rock clones. Regina Spektor has genuine talent, but she was drowned out by the band on the stage next to her (it would be better to see her in a more intimate setting).
I was also surprised that there were not more performers that teamed up during each other’s performances (the Yoko Ono/Thurston Moore combination provided some of the best moments at Pitchfork this year.)
Despite these weak spots, the show delivered the goods again this year. The 2007 Lollapalooza offered many triumphant performances, and it once again raised the bar high.
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