Aloe Blacc at Lollapalooza 2012 | Photos and music review
The south stage at Lollapalooza has always been a winner for soul music. Some of my favorite fest memories include Raphael Saadiq's run there in 2010, and Fitz & The Tantrums triumphant turn last year. Fest programmers seem to get it and this year they awarded the coveted main stage slot to rising crooner Aloe Blacc. Following a traditional lead-in from his horn-adorned backup band, the Grand Scheme, Blacc strutted out looking suave in dark blue jeans, a black blazer and aviator shades under a white cap. People quickly put their hands together for the singer's sunny R&B brew, as Blacc's mellifluous pipes coated us like a cool balm under the punishing sun. No question the man's a smooth operator, wearing his influences on his sleeve as the band quoted Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City." A little bit later bits of the Temptations' "My Girl" and Curtis Mayfield's "Diamond in the Back" made their way into a medley of influences before the singer steered the tune back into his own "Green Lights." (Like Mayer Hawthorne, there's barely any trace left of Aloe Blacc's former career as an underground rapper). His occasionally beefy, thoroughly contemporary blend of retro and modern sounds isn't quite as convincing as Saadiq or Fitz, but he's got a personality that makes up for any deficit in that department. Working mostly from 2010's Good Things, the singer tried to stir up a soul train at one point. The closest thing I saw was a group of dudes in tuxedo "morphsuits" pounding beers, and nearby a group of bros hoisting contraband bottles of rum and vodka into the air. Eventually Blacc brought us to his hit, "I Need a Dollar," a sentiment most of us could get behind. How to Make It in America, the HBO show that made him a name, may have been canceled, but the singer's come out on top. Here he was following Curtis's advice to a T, diggin' the scene with a gangsta lean.