Kanye West and his well-publicized punctuality problem may have been on everyone's mind during Lollapalooza Sunday (read this blog for details), but before he hit the main stage (almost exactly on time!!), plenty of other awesome bands adhered to their own earlier timeslots. And, just as Kanye covered the Sopranos-popularized Journey anthem "Don't Stop Believin'" during his set, many of Sunday's acts were also performing under the influence, so to speak. (Even Blues Traveler couldn't resist doing a cover of Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me," oddly).
Here are the highlights...
First, local powerpop heroes, Chicago's own Office, played a fun-in-the-sun afternoon Playstation 3 stage set dedicated to "the junior senator from Illinois." (Along with cover songs, Barack Obama was another recurring theme of the day...from Mark Ronson announcing he'd become a U.S. citizen just so he could vote for Obama, right down to the crazy rumor that Barack would personally introduce Kanye's set.) Office didn't do any cover songs, per se, but every one of their jangly, brainy pop-rockers from their debut album A Night At The Ritz (my personal #2 album of 2007) could've passed for an XTC outtake--which was not a bad thing:
Next on the BMI stage was my discovery band of the entire festival, the band I knew nothing about until Sunday afternoon and have quickly become obsessed with: another bunch of natty powerpoppers, Tally Hall. Imagine a perfect fusion of Vampire Weekend and the Click Five, and you'll get an idea of just how awesome Tally Hall's whimsical, funky-folky college-rock is. Their conga-driven novelty ditty "Banana Man" was like an indie-cool version of the Beach Boys "Kokomo" (like if Brian Wilson had spearheaded that song instead of Mike Love, if that makes sense). But it was their unexpected, inspired, almost entirely acoustic cover of Fatboy Slim's "Praise You" that had delighted spectators getting jiggy like the dancing dorks in Fatboy's original video:
And Tally Hall impressed me with their humor, too, when they ended their set by saying, "This is going to be our last song--stick around for Kanye West!" I don't know why, but for some reason that made me laugh.
Next on the Citi stage was Spectorian New Jersey chanteuse (and my latest girl-crush) Nicole Atkins. Looking gorgeous, if a little weather-inappropriate, in a sparkly blue iceskating dress and opaque tights, she somehow always kept her cool--and her thrillingly Lesley Gore-ish voice gave me chills. Her voice was so powerful that even when her mic temporarily shorted out she was still clearly audible--which was so refreshing in this auto-tunia era of ProTooled-to-death fembot vocals. Then Nicole lent her crystal-clear voice to a cover of the Doors' "Crystal Ship," and I was a goner:
Then it was off to the MySpace stage for the dynamic duo of P-Thugg and Dave 1, aka Chromeo, whol delighted the Chi-Town crowd with their party-hardy, talkbox-heavy set of electric-boogaloo euphoria. Their set evoked the hot house-party hits of Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, Klymaxx, the L.A. Dream Team, Whodini, and Rock Master Scott (of "The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!" fame), and as you can see from the photo below, their music really had legs:
Conflicting with Chromeo's set time was the Citi stage show by the even more euphoric Florida party army the Black Kids, whose singer Reggie Youngblood actually whined onstage: "Chromeo's right over there! I wanna see Chromeo! Who schedules this sh*t?" But Reggie should have realized that his band was THE band to see on Sunday afternoon. These krazy kids were a total mashup mix: black and white, boys and girls, brothers and sisters, Prince-ly lyrics ("I Wanna Be Your Limousine") and Robert Smithy vocal affectations, a zillion clashing fluoro colors...and it all worked on every possible level. There's a lot of foaming-at-mouth press hype about the Black Kids right now, but in this case, seriously, do believe the hype. They're simply awesome:
Not as awesome, surprisingly, were Gnarls Barkley over on the main stage. These guys always come up with fabulous themes for their onstage costumes, and I assumed for a big event like Lollapalooza they'd pull out all the stops--like they did at their Coachella debut a few years ago, when they got all gussied up as characters from The Wizard Of Oz. But instead they just emerged in boring mustard-colored blazers, looking like shills for Century 21. Bummer:
Then they started the show with a couple of so-so, lowtempo numbers. To be honest, the real show was going on in the audience, where the people had more energy and better outfits:
Even GB's megahit "Crazy" seemed a little phoned-in ("You've probably heard this song before...but it's still cool," frontman Cee-Lo announced in a somewhat resigned tone of voice). But then Gnarls Barkley redeemed themselves with a positively transcendent cover of Radiohead's In Rainbows album cut "Reckoner." Cee-Lo's octave-straddling falsetto was the perfect match for such a vocally acrobatic song, and he turned the icy avant-garde number into a bona fide soul song. Definitely the coolest cover of the day.
Back on the MySpace stage, Mark Ronson (brother of superstar deejay Samantha, superstar producer of Amy Winehouse, and super-hottie) was playing a set of all cover songs, mostly from his excellent covers album Versions. And speaking of Mark being a hottie...check out two of the pics below. I had no idea he was such a heartthrob, but the first several rows at his Lolla concert consisted entirely of googly-eyed girls, some literally shouting out their desire to carry his baby:
Mark's set included several "special guests," and though Amy Winehouse wasn't one of them (I seriously doubted she would be, since she rarely even shows up to her own gigs), the show was still an indie-allstar affair. Collaborators included Neptunes-affiliated electro-hopper Kenna (singing Ryan Adams' "Amy"); all of Phantom Planet (who did their own O.C. theme, "California," while their singer Alex Greenwald handled vocals on another Radiohead remake, "Just"); blue-eyed soulman/uncanny Rick Astley lookalike Daniel Merriweather (warbling the White Stripes' "You Don't Know What Love Is"); Ronson ingenue/Zutons sibling Candi Payne (filling Lily Allen's trainers on the Kaiser Chiefs cover "Oh My God"); pint-size R&B superstar-in-training Taniah (ably filling in for Amy on the Zutons cover "Valerie," and completely stealing the show); and rucksack-rapper Rhymefest (pictured below, getting up-close and personal with the crowd):
Yep, Mark harnessed enough star power on that stage to launch his own spinoff festival. Ronsonpalooza, anyone?
And then, after Kanye killed it on the main stage (see separate blog), Lollapalooza '08 came to close. Now all I'm thinking about is a different kind of covers--the ones on my hotel bed, specifically. Because I seriously need SLEEP. Rock is tiring!
So goodnight, and good music. And see you at Lollapalooza 2009.