Lollapalooza ’09 recap – Perry has left the building

Jane's Addiction, led by head howler Perry Farrell, close out Lollapalooza '09

Jane's Addiction, led by head howler Perry Farrell, closes out Lollapalooza '09


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.

Waiting for the man - Lou Reed gets off to a slow start but finishes strong.

Waiting for the man - Lou Reed got off to a slow start but finished strong.

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.

Dave Navarro's searing guitar licks during Jane's Addiction's headlining set must have echoed all the way to Indiana.

Dave Navarro's searing guitar licks during Jane's Addiction's headlining set must have echoed all the way to Indiana.

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.

Neko Case's enchanting country- and gospel-tinged vocals boomed throughout Grant Park's north end

Neko Case's enchanting country- and gospel-tinged vocals boomed throughout Grant Park's north end

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.

The Chicago Fire Department's giant mister, a $250,000 contraption that's also used to help put out fires, mitigated some of Sunday's 90-degree heat.

The Chicago Fire Department's giant mister, a $250,000 contraption that's also used to help put out fires, mitigated some of Sunday's 90-degree heat.

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.

Lollapalooza drew 225,000 people over three days, according to the Chicago Tribune. Here's a few of them, looking west toward Michigan Ave.

Lollapalooza drew 225,000 people over three days, according to the Chicago Tribune. Here's a few of them, looking west toward Michigan Ave.

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.

See ya next year!

See ya next year!

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4 responses to “Lollapalooza ’09 recap – Perry has left the building

  1. I would be remiss as a Springsteen fan with 26 shows under my belt if I didn’t point out that unlike most other acts of his pedigree, Bruce charges a flat rate for anywhere in an arena he is performing (at most two rates), whether you’re in the pit or in the highest bleacher. This price never tops $98, for three plus hours of, objectively speaking, the best rock & roll show you will see, headed by a man who sends his soul to where Chuck Berry has gone to bring you this event.

    • Point well taken. The Springsteen ticket example wasn’t meant as a knock on the Boss. Just illustrating the reality that if you want to see big-name arena acts anymore, you’re going to have to cough up big bucks – $100 on up – and you’re only seeing one performer at a time from what may or may not be a prime location.

      At Lolla, you pay what, granted, is not a bargain-basement price either. But you’ve got a wealth of choices for the entire day and the freedom to move from one show to the other, as opposed to being stuck in your 300-level seat at the UC.

      Let’s get the Boss to Lolla – what do you say? Problem is, I don’t think he’s ever done a one-hour show in his life.

  2. Coming from you, I definitely didn’t think you were knocking the only Boss everyone should listen to. I am a big fan of Lolla as well, and would have been there if I had been back in town in time. Not only do I love being spoiled for choice with live music, I really enjoy the atmosphere. I always tell Caroline one of my favorite memories of the festival is sitting under a tree with her eating tamales one year.

  3. Oh – and you might have seen that Bruce played His first festivals this year – Hard Rock Live, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, Pink Pop. You’re right – He could never be contained within an hour. In fact, the Glasto guy is being fined 40,000 pounds or something for Bruce going over his curfew. But he was always a headlining act, so got at least 90 minutes, I believe. Or actually, even two hours.

    So, what I am saying is… The E Street Band to close Lolla out!!!

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