Jimmy Cliff + Jamie Lidell + Dirty Projectors + Semi Precious Weapons + Kidz in the Hall at Lollapalooza 2010: Live review
About mid-way through the Black Keys' north stage set I witnessed at least a half dozen agile youngsters fly over the gate dividing Lolla-land from Lake Shore Drive. Grant Park bystanders erupted into applause, and I’m sure that had former Sun-Times critic and current Vocalo blogger Jim DeRogatis been there, he'd have been among those whooping and clapping. The longtime Lollapalooza detractor likes to refer to Perry Farrell’s overgrown baby as "Walmart on the Lake." But the flip side of that argument is that Lolla provides an opportunity to see dozens of bands at varying points in their careers, often separated by tiers on the touring circuit but here united under one massive musically-omnivorous umbrella. I took advantage of that variety for the remainder of my afternoon in Grant Park, dipping in and out of several tastes like a scatterbrained sampler (which is what this festival is after all).
After pumping out a mid-day roundup I booked it over to the relocated Perry’s stage on Columbis Drive to catch Kidz in the Hall, the Chicago-affiliated group often afflicted with the tag "preppy rap" due to hometown MC Naledge and producer Double-O having connected at Philadelphia's prestigious Ivy League institution, University of Pennsylvania. The duo smartly brought along a small supporting cast for the occasion including a DJ (Double-O instead played hype man in addition to hopping between several instruments), an emo-informed guitarist (virtually a doppleganger for the one He Said, She Said employed on the same stage a year ago) and a sturdy drummer who anchored the whole thing, splashing, crashing and pummeling his kit with dynamite precision.
Next I darted east across the park to the BMI stage, a shady glen backlit by Lake Shore Drive, to catch the tail end of a salacious set from Semi Precious Weapons. Singer Justin Tranter indisputably boasts an unfuckwithable stage presence, but I was very lucky to have arrived just in time to catch the evening's over-outfitted headliner make a cameo. Yes, Lady Gaga herself dove into the crowd before climbing back up to the stage for a split second, shouting out Tranter's trashy glam-rock wonder in her ragged, throaty bellow—perhaps payback for the man who hosted the parties that essentially molded Gaga’s diva-esque aesthetic, and in turn launched her career. As expected, the crowd went ape shit, while the flamboyant frontman pronounced her “Lady Fucking Gaga,” later warning the crowd never to address her as such. The shamelessly aspiring icon preached to the crowd like a gospel church of glam, flanked by guitarist Stevy Pyne, whose impressively bizarre guitar theatrics went beyond the usual runny displays, and bassist Cole Whittle, who by the end was barely playing, instead thrashing around as if he'd been bitten by a rabid raccoon. The singer showered the devout audience with shticky tough love, calling us all “fucking cunts” and explaining how they’re bringing rock stars back before imploring us all to purchase their new album. I’ve never been a fan of the band’s hammy, over-the-top cock rock, and I can’t say that I’ve been converted in that respect. However, I appreciate what Tranter’s doing in one sense: The man puts on a hell of a live show and he’s got more than enough bluster to back up all his proselytizing bullshit (one regard in which he's virtually identical to his Fame-tastic protégé). It's worth noting that an obvious trend this year has been the resurgence of glam rock, be it SWP or fellow fest guests Foxy Shazam—whose singer Eric Sean Nally similarly beckoned the crowd, sounding more like Liza Minnelli than David Bowie—and the earnest synth-pop of Neon Trees (who coincidentally play a free 10am set tomorrow at the Hard Rock Café).
Far more original than those hammy, hard-rocking outfits were NYC’s Dirty Projectors, who swept onto the Petrillo Music Shell/PlayStation stage and proceeded to coast through a seamless set. I’m a sucker for the group’s broad-minded and often quirky fusion, dialing up choral-pop, art-punk and urban R&B, not to mention bandleader David Longstreth's penchant for African highlife–indebted riffs. With a three-female frontline firmly in place, the sextet soared through tunes from last year's well-received Domino debut, Bitte Orca. As I noted during the band's performance, each member of the band is more than competent on his/her instrument, but bassist Nat Baldwin deserves a special shout out for his impeccable plucking and the remarkable dexterity with which he anchors the group. The group's other rhythm section rock, drummer Brian McOmber, is a little too heavy-handed for my taste, bashing out grooves with the subtlety of a caveman. A more jazz-informed player might lift their music to even greater heights, but hearing gems like the Solange Knowles–endorsed "Stillness Is the Move" carried out with immaculate precision was more than enough to put a smile on my face.
After Longstreth's unit wrapped up the Budweiser stage almost immediately began piping GZA's benchmark "Liquid Swords" through the soundsystem to announce the aforementioned Black Keys, who packed the north end for a relatively strong set. Though I’m a fan of frontman Dan Auerbach’s leathery voice and vintage rock & roll charm, I left (following the aforementioned gate-crashers) to check out Brit blue-eyed soul crooner Jamie Lidell over on the Bloggie stage. It turned out to be one of the smartest moves I made all day. Perhaps due to being sandwiched in between Hot Chip and the Black Keys, the Warp Records artist played to an audience that was far smaller than he deserved. Nevertheless, the multi-tasking madman pumped out a walloping set of oddball funk and soul, nearly channeling Michael Jackson at points and joined intermittently by tambourine-shaker and Wilco ringer Pat Sansone. Honestly, Lidell could’ve been playing to a packed Parkways stage—the energy and intensity was simply fantastic. Regardless of the platform, he's truly a marvel to watch live, and it was easily one of the day's highlights.
Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff was the biggest question mark going into the day, especially considering his potential Lolla audience, whose median age falls far below that of his older fanbase—an issue that's plauged senior artists here in the past (ahem, Lou Reed, anyone?). Yet Cliff, who has a new album in the pipeline, hit the ground running, strapping on an upside down Les Paul (to accomodate his left-handed guitar style, natch) and barrelling into a hit-heavy set including ace versions of "You Can Get It If You Really Want" and "The Harder They Come"—his voice remarkably in tact at the ripe age of 62. "Y'all remember this one?" he asked us before shuffling through a casual take on Cat Steven’s "Wild Word." By that point the crowd had grown to a level that likely would've made even Reed jeaalous.