Lollapalooza 2008 Day 3: Afternoon roundup with Amadou and Mariam, Iron and Wine, the National and Kanye
I caught a mid-afternoon set by the only blind couple from Mali playing this weekend, Amadou & Mariam. You know, that Afro-blues duo that Manu Chao produced on 2005’s Dimanche à Bamako. Flanked by a band of four supporting musicians, they breezed through funky, syncopated fare. Note how few ethnic acts Lolla included this year. This token entry follows far behind the Pitchfork Music Festival’s afro-obsessed lineup.
Iron and Wine was next, opening with a bouncing polyrhythmic groove reminiscent of the Malian duo. Sam Beam's current live band is stunning, featuring a top shelf rhythm section made up of three regulars on the Chicago scene: Matt Lux of Isotope 217 on bass, Ben Massarella of Califone on percussion, and former Chicagoan Chad Taylor on drums. Beam’s largely abandoned the singer-songwriter shtick for a beautifully serene, layered approach. Call it desert soul.
I missed most of Love and Rockets, though I spotted a few panda aliens. Anyone know what that was about? Instead, I caught The National. Guided by Matt Berninger’s brooding baritone, the quintet was beefed up by a horn section as they made their way through Joy Division-indebted pop tunes like “Mistaken for Strangers” and “Squalor Victoria.”
Yes, I saw Kanye West. No, Obama wasn’t there, nor was ’Ye lost in space—read: no glowing in the dark. Say what you will about his overinflated ego, but the man has a hell of a stage presence. Plus, it appears he's got a knack for writing verses suited to the stage, as was clear when he made his way through most of Graduation. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a stable of oldies to draw upon. Sure he gave us “Gold Digger” and “Through the Wire," but he rearranged several songs for the show. Most importantly, dude doesn’t rely on guests. “Good Life”? Who needs T-Pain when you’ve got Auto-Tune? Still, even without modulated vocals, the man can sing. Who knew? He sounded impressively solid belting out Chris Martin’s hook on “Homecoming." I’m not exactly sure how Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” fit into the tail end of the set, but it did. Before long he was rocking “Stronger” and after that the gig was up. Just as Daft Punk closed day one of last year’s Lolla, ’Ye shut down the shop with surprisingly little drama.
For photos of Kanye, and more from Lollapalooza Day 3, see our Flickr stream.