CKOW completed a Lollapalooza tripleheader over the weekend, joining 75,000 or so friends in steamy Grant Park for the finale Sunday. I’ll share a few more thoughts, and then it’s time to move on and dry out.
We took in parts or all of nine acts, including Kaiser Chiefs (see my previous post on the performance interpreters who “sign” for live shows), the Raveonettes, Passion Pit and Neko Case. By and large, it was a pretty solid outing for most of what I saw, though there were a few head-scratching moments.
Take Lou Reed, for example. Having never seen the legendary, highly-influential New York rock musician and songwriter live, this personally was one of my most-anticipated shows the whole weekend.
Like most senior citizens, Reed (he turned 67 this year) moves at his own pace. He came out almost 15 minutes late for his north-end set, and then proceeded to shamble through a meandering and occasionally perplexing performance during his show’s first-half.
Reed appeared distracted at times, often fiddling with the computer monitors arrayed in front of him (did he forget the lyrics to his own songs?). Many of us were looking at (or texting) each other, “WTF?” He then treated the crowd to 10-plus minutes of ear-piercing, laptop-induced feedback, before finally launching into the Velvet Underground classic, “Waiting for the Man.”
Things bounced back during the show’s second half, with Reed closing with “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” to the crowd’s delight. Like I said, I’ve never seen Reed live before, so maybe that’s just how he operates. But we couldn’t help but feel that maybe he could have given us more than that.
Jane’s Addiction, another much-anticipated entry this year, closed the weekend with a north-end set highlighted by the scorching guitar work of Dave Navarro and, of course, the over-the-top theatrics and screaming-banshee vocals of flamboyant lead signer Perry Farrell.
Perry was being Perry, definitely giving the crowd what it came to see. But watching the set reminded me that it’s Navarro’s guitar wizardry, along with the rhythm section of drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Eric Avery, that really makes this outfit go, and helped define the alternative-rock movement of the 1980s.
Farrell, also Lollapalooza’s founder and public point man, took us through some of the old Jane’s favorites, including “Stop,” “Mountain Song,” “Summertime Rolls” and “Been Caught Stealing.” For the encore, we got “Jane Says,” which included an inexplicable guest appearance by Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry.
However, the ending was marred by some sound problems with Farrell’s vocals and then devolved into near-farce, which included Farrell parading his two young sons at center stage and an on-stage marriage proposal by a friend of the band to his girlfriend (she accepted).
Grousing aside, we had a great time over the weekend and credit promoter C3 Presents for overall putting on a good show despite some difficult conditions (90-degree heat at the top of the list).
Yes, some things could be done better, as the Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot and other local music critics have pointed out. Perry-bashing is always quite fashionable when Lolla rolls into town each year, with critics, I’m guessing, loathe to appear to be any sort of lap-dog or civic cheerleader for this kind of thing. Granted, some of the criticism is justified. Trimming the number of bands would be a good start, as Kot has said before. There were more than 170 in a sprawling, three-day lineup this year.
Still, $80 a ticket for a chance to choose among 40 to 50 bands a day strikes CKOW as a pretty good deal, and you get to do it while drinking beer outside in Chicago’s all-too-short summer. Disagree? Consider Bruce Springsteen is charging $98 for most tickets for a United Center show in September. Face value on many tickets to U2, playing two shows at Soldier Field next month, will set you back $95 or $250 (though some seats are listed at $30 and $55).
So long for another year, Perry & friends. We look forward to Lolla 2010 next August. I’ll need that time to recover.