Lollapalooza 2011, Saturday: Cee Lo Green
One of the downfalls of excess charisma? It can leave you thinking you can pull off some bullshit and no one will notice. Cee Lo, who has played a Lolla stage in tennis gear (with Gnarls Barkley), knows how important a striking visual image is in taking the show higher. He came on stage in Road Warrior–meets–Darth Vader getup to a James Bond–themed vamp played by a quintet of rocker chicks who were one part Robert Palmer and one part, uh, Road Warrior.
The leather micro-pants, the fishnets, the metal bodices were fantastic to look at, and the band held its own for a bit, like a garagey hard-rocking bar band. Cee Lo dotted his set with cover versions, leading off with Danzig's "Mother." But, with snippets of rock riffs spun by a DJ, entreaties by Cee Lo and his bandmates for the crowd to get with it and not "let these wonderful outfits go to waste," the set kept sputtering before it could achieve liftoff. It seemed to sink lower and lower. Cee Lo's band sounded more tentative as it went on, his DJ sounded superfluous and often confused the audience and band with snippets of "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" by Lenny Kravitz, which would be suddenly cut off. And Cee Lo himself hardly seemed to be belting it out, but rather looked and sounded like he needed some rest, so he took it, sitting down and hanging around the back corner of the stage. Cee Lo's own gabbing and lame goading of the crowd elicited shouts of "play a song" from where I was standing. But even when the band did muster an original tune, it fell completely flat. Whether it was Gnarls Barkley's "Smiley Faces" or Cee Lo's "Satisfy," Cee Lo seemed to be stuck in barely pleasing, never coming close to wowing anyone. An R&B take on Billy Idol's "Flesh for Fantasy" actually sparked things up a bit, simmering enough that Cee Lo's not-so-loud vocals could shine. "Crazy" came, but it was oddly presented, with Spanish strings somewhere in the mix that left it like an overdressed pizza, soggy and unappetizing. Of course, there was "Fuck You," which had kids running in to thicken up the crowd. But largely, it seemed that an ill-prepared Cee Lo was stuck with a crowd that was primed for Eminem and harder to impress than you might think.
[Editor's Note: I felt I needed to add more details as to why this set was the worst of all we saw at Lollapalooza, I hope you will excuse the revisions.]