Concert Review: Lollapalooza, Day 1 with The Raconteurs

(Editor's Note: This is the first part of a short series reviewing the Lollapalooza Festival online. For the next part, please go here.)

by Rick Rockwell

So you couldn’t get to this year’s Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago. Not to worry. There are modern solutions.

This reviewer is more than a thousand miles away from Chicago’s Grant Park where all the action will be through Sunday night, but it was still possible to catch about a third of the acts streaming over the internet. This solution is cheaper but it has one big drawback: none of the headliners are featured online. That means, if you watched on the ‘net, you still missed Radiohead. However, you also miss the crush of the crowd, the heat (in the low 80s, which is pretty good for August), legendary problems with Chicago parking, and expensive food and drink from vendors. Plus you get to watch the concert action from your armchair. If you have the time, the mostly live concert stream can be found in the AT&T Blue Room.

Plus the folks at MTV and Fuse (which is featuring Lollapalooza highlights this weekend) should take a lesson from AT&T’s presentation. What you get is wall-to-wall music. No commercial breaks (although there are ads on the streaming page). No D-level celebrities calling themselves DJs (or VJs) trying to conduct poor interviews or blathering on about not much. For a music lover, the Blue Room is a delight.

Online, the first day of Lollapalooza peaked with a sweaty blues-infused performance by The Raconteurs. The band started with a noisy, feedback-induced “Consoler of the Loney” and then ripped through a 15-song, 77-minute set that featured one encore (including both “Broken Boy Soldier” and “Many Shades of Black,” and ending with the climactic “Salute Your Solution”). The Raconteurs poured out as much energy as possible and the crowd soaked it up. Jack Lawrence anchored the set with his fuzz bass holding up the bottom, while drummer Patrick Keeler flailed on his kit like the second coming of Keith Moon. The best parts were, of course, guitarists Brendan Benson and Jack White trading licks and slipping into harmony lead lines at times. As usual, White was the center of attention, almost in constant motion and moving easily from acoustic to hard-edged electric guitar, and at times even using a guitar synthesizer. At the center of the set, just before “Steady as She Goes,” The Raconteurs swung into a humorous cover of bluesman Charly Jordan’s “Keep it Clean,” which had both the band and concert-goers smiling.

The Raconteurs weighted their set a bit toward Consolers of the Lonely (for more on the album, please see the review, here) as the band played just over half of that new release. Their version of “Old Enough” (which is emerging as a second FM single) featured sideman Mark Watrous on fiddle and keyboards and was another highlight. A long jam on “Blue Veins” from the group’s debut appropriately provided the purest blues-rock of the evening.

Building up to The Raconteurs, the day at Lollapalooza was filled with mostly strong performances.

However, one of the disappointments was an off-kilter and off-key performance by Rogue Wave early in the day. Despite a build-up by critics (please see "Caitlin's Hit List," for more) the band was flat, literally, on many songs.

Stephen Malkmus also threw in some unnecessary banter in his set with his backing band, the Jicks. His sarcasm aimed at fans who were leaving his set to get situated for Radiohead seemed unwarranted. Malkmus and the Jicks jammed through a set, which featured a variety of songs from his latest album (for more see "Music Review: Stephen Malkmus' Real Emotional Trash"), including “Hopscotch Willie” and the dark, minor key “Dragonfly Pie.” Malkmus’ soloing was reminiscent of Jerry Garcia and it is no wonder the Jicks are regarded as a top jam act if they can conjure the stage magic of The Grateful Dead.

However, one of the true revelations of the day was a hypnotic and sexy performance by the duo known as The Kills. Backed by a drum machine, this duo with their twin guitars launched into an energetic set of lo-fi garage rock that also summoned ghosts of the past, this time the Velvet Underground. “Alphabet Pony” and “U.R.A. Fever” highlighted their strong set.

The U.K.’s Bloc Party also provided a crowd-pleasing set. Lead singer/rhythm guitarist Kele Okereke proved to be a crowd favorite adorned in his Barack Obama t-shirt. He certainly came prepared for a Chicago audience. For those unfamiliar with Bloc Party, their sound is situated somewhere between Radiohead and Joy Division.

All in all, a pleasing day of internet concert-viewing.

(To see a review of Day 2 at Lollapalooza, please go here.)

(The photo of The Raconteurs at Scotland's T in the Park Festival in July of this year is by yooowan via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License. To see The Raconteurs playing "Level" at Lollapalooza in 2006, please check below.)

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