Depeche Mode v. Kings Of Leon: Who dazzles, who deflates day one Lollapalooza?
Depeche Mode was sidelined earlier this year when frontman Dave Gahan had a bout with illness during a tour overseas, canceling several shows in a row. But little wear or tear could be heard or seen during the veteran synth rock band's two-hour set at Chicago's Grant Park during Friday at Lollapalooza.
Gahan is a seasoned showman, and knows the precise point in songs he should point the mic at the crowd or set their arms waving. I didn't expect to hear "Just Can't Get Enough," and it wasn't played, but they rifled through plenty of the rest of the old crowd-pleasers, like "A Question of Time," "Enjoy the Silence" and "Home" - the latter of which boasted only piano accompaniment.
The term "old" I think applies, not just because I'm an evil ageist, but because the shrugging mediocre performances of newer singles like "Wrong" and "In Chains" makes the bombastic old hits like "Personal Jesus" - the night's closer - all the more distant, and, in many ways, untouchably iconic.
The group is approaching its 30th year of existence and still these beautiful men dress in metallics and leather and eyeliner, with techno beats and Gahan's hips churning. Even if this is their last tour or they go for 20 years more, there's a sense of comfort that these things will always be.
I warned my dispatcher, spying Kings Of Leon across Grant Park, that, based on my previous viewings, all the band will probably do is play their songs. There would be no "moves," no killing the lights and acoustic break-downs, no spontaneous, revelatory emotions or covers of their favorite licks from the '70s or jokey banter. They will play the hits and that will be it. Later on at night, she said they played them very well, and that I was right.
The Decemberists are remarkably tight, and I don't think Colin Meloy could sing a bad note if he tried. But the weird and whimsical contributions from Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark and My Brightest Diamond's Shara Wordon made this show worthwhile, filling out the conceptual female voices from the band's latest "Hazards Of Love." The ladies got better costumes, too.
Fleet Foxes would have inpired a fleet exit if it wasn't for their warm presence and funny stage banter. The rain was still in mist-and-piss mode and we're all next to the burrito vendors. Yet, J. Tillman kept the kindle glowing with offhand remarks and the humor to play their two sunny songs, "Sun Rises" and "Sun Giant," first.
"Skinny Love" as the third song? Fine if people were just waiting for that solitary, perfect track, and leave after, that leaves all the more room in the dirt and mud for the rest of us. Four members strong, and getting stronger every show, Bon Iver executed all the intricate layers of harmonies that Justin Vernon laid down in a cold Wisconsin cabin two-and-a-half years ago. He also tackled selections from the recent "Blood Bank" EP and "Brackett, WI" from the "Dark Was The Night" charity compilation. I can't, for the life of me, explain his hair.
I still don't get Amazing Baby, but maybe, in an inspired moment, I will.
I wasn't personally there for more than one song, but Andrew Bird was reportedly gentle and is still the world's best whistler.
Kevin Barnes and his band Of Montreal are almost always guaranteed to put on a circus posing as a show, and never the same circus twice. Friday was no exception. There were monsters that had silver mesh face guards and pig masks. There was a double guitar-and-bass one-two punch on his sideman, dressed with pink wings and a shit-eating smirk on his face. Barnes had thigh-high boots and a cape, bless him. Janelle Monae took to the stage, with dozens of bright ballons in hand, for two songs, including a cover of Bowie's "Moonage Daydream." She can also Moonwalk.
Gaslight Anthem got rained out last weekend at All Points West, and the weather threatened the same conclusion again Friday. However, the New Jersey rock outfit did take the stage, on time, and won a whole lot of people over. They sound great on a big stage, they were built for this. It's a little meaty, and meat-heady, the sonic opposite of the other end of the park with Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver and Andrew Bird. I think a lot of new fans were made.