Lollapalooza 2012, a sunny and hot ‘black’ (Black Keys & Black Sabbath) Friday
Day One of Lollapalooza (check out our photos) featured two very different headlining acts, and we had a hard time deciding which band we wanted to see more. On the one hand, we wanted to see The Black Keys, especially since we saw their first-ever show at the Beachland Tavern in Cleveland and have been fans ever since. On the other hand, we have always liked Black Sabbath and, given the age of singer Ozzy Osbourne, we thought we might not have another chance to see the band.
We chose to start with the Keys and they certainly didn’t disappoint. After receiving an introduction courtesy of Chicago mayor Rahm Immanuel, the Keys arrived on a stage so filled with smoke that singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach admitted he couldn’t even see the audience. “Our smoke guy is new,” he joked as the band started its set with “Howlin’ for You” and then dipped into its back catalogue for “Thickfreakness,” a track Auerbach introduced as an “oldie but a goody.” Expanded from a duo, the band has a fuller sound that came off spectacularly in the mix. The large video screen that showed a montage of colorful images didn’t distract from the overall presentation, either. We caught about half of their terrific set before walking to the opposite end of Grant Park to catch some of Black Sabbath.
Anchored by hard-hitting drummer Tommy Clufetos (who replaced original member Bill Ward), Sabbath sounded tight on classic heavy metal tunes such as “Ironman” and “Fairies Wear Boots.” But singer Ozzy Osbourne lost much of his edge. Wearing a black shirt that looked more like a blouse, Osbourne focused mostly on trying to rile the crowd by urging them “clap your fuckin’ hands.” Coming off as a bit of a doddering old man, Osbourne just couldn’t live up to his reputation as the Prince of Darkness (saying things like “God bless you all” didn’t help), and the set just didn’t have the power it needed.
Other highlights from the day included the Shins, whose indie pop songs translated well on the big stage, and The Head & The Heart, a Seattle indie folk act that featured perfectly harmonized vocals and solid songwriting. The French electropop band M83 also put on a visually distinctive show that found it performing in front of an array of strobes and LED lights. And while the newly reunited Afghan Whigs drew a good crowd to their afternoon set, their songs suffered from sameness, even if singer Greg Dulli’s soulful vocals sounded as good as ever. The fact that the guy’s not a particularly dynamic live performer didn’t help matters.
Tip: Last year, a reconfiguration and expansion of the festival space allowed the daily “sell out” capacity to expand to 90,000. This year, 100,000 music fans will stream through the gates daily (with, we’d guess, another 500 ‘jumpers’ giving free admission their best shot). The event sold out a record 71 days in advance. This growth shows. Friday, typically a slower-paced day, was packed to the gills making it a little uncomfortable and a not as kid-friendly as it has been in the past.