NOBLESVILLE, Indiana — Even heavy rain, sluggish ticket sales, a one-hour mid-show delay, last-minute cancellations and Spinal Tap-like sound problems couldn’t stop Perry Farrell from getting Lollapalooza back on the road.
“Thank you, God, for the beautiful weather,” he said during the resuscitated festival’s storm-soaked opening night, not long after technical difficulties kept Dave Navarro’s guitar from being heard through most of Jane’s Addiction’s first number, “Stop!”
Judging by the applause, Farrell’s attempts to turn Lollapalooza’s lemons into lemonade were appreciated by the reportedly half-capacity crowd at the Verizon Wireless Music Centre near Indianapolis on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, a brief but brutal downpour had created Woodstock-like mudslides in the venue’s lawn and prompted the folks in charge to stop the show for almost an hour as Queens of the Stone Age waited in the wings.
Though the mainstage performances eventually resumed, the second stage was shut down for good, before the Distillers or “Jackass” star Steve-O had a chance to perform.
The new beginning of the now 12-year-old and once trailblazing touring festival — which Farrell began in 1991 and more or less put on hold after a 1997 jaunt that boasted Tool and Snoop Dogg — started out on a hot and humid day as an estimated 12,238 ticket holders filed into the 24,000-capacity venue.
The mainstage area was barely half full when the Donnas took the stage shortly after a brief set from Rooney, the ’80s pop-influenced band fronted by Robert Carmine, the younger brother of actor and Phantom Planet drummer Jason Schwartzman (“Rushmore”).
Sporting sleeveless shirts, the Donnas emerged with the sounds of Guns N’ Roses’ “You Could Be Mine” blaring over the PA system before their own AC/DC-inspired stomp took over.
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Despite their relatively extensive back catalog, the Bay Area, California, quartet stuck as closely to material from their major-label debut (“You Wanna Get Me High” and, of course, “Take It Off” were noticeable crowd pleasers) as they did predictable rock and roll banter between songs, though they did manage to sneak in “Hyperactive” from 1999′s Get Skintight and a cover of the Kiss classic “Strutter.”
Counterbalancing the Donnas rock-for-rock’s-sake bravado before the rain drove them away, a wide variety of progressively minded organizations had tents set up on the path to the second stage, including Organic Consumers, Global Exchange, Earth Save, the youth-directed Peta2 and Unite!
Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello’s Axis of Justice tent housed Amnesty International and Bloomington, Indiana’s Boxcar Books, which sold titles by writers like Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore.
About the same time as Cut Chemist and Jurassic 5 followed the Donnas, Boston’s Cave In played for oblivious, mosh-happy second-stage stragglers and a small handful of devotees from the band’s metalcore days who braved the fest solely to catch their set.
Whether or not Cave In’s major-label debut causes them to go the way of either Sense Field and Into Another or AFI remains to be seen, but the band’s energetic and inspired renditions of tracks from this year’s Antenna and the even more spaced-out melodic, post-hardcore wail of their 2000 effort, Jupiter, definitely seemed to win them new fans.
As thunder and lightning drew near, fans booed when the mainstage video monitors informed them there’d be at least an hour delay as crew members covered Queens of the Stone Age’s equipment. As a consolation, lawn ticket holders were invited to take temporary shelter in the pavilion, where they were allowed to hang until Queens eventually plugged in and started the opening chords of “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire.”
Despite having to play some of this year’s catchiest basslines at the same time, a shirtless Nick Oliveri nearly swallowed the mic as he screamed with heavy metal abandon, while, as always, singer/guitarist Josh Homme’s more laid-back approach provided some necessary balance. “No One Knows,” which momentarily turned into a bit of a jam, rounded out a competent set that still undoubtedly would have gone down better without the unintended hour-long slowdown.
Speaking of jams, a very easygoing Incubus seemed comfortable to still be between records, using the opportunity to ease into tried and true favorites like “Warning” while continuing to break in bassist Ben Kenney and road-test new material with a sharper edge than last year’s Morning View that builds upon their established loud/soft dynamic.
Absolutely nothing seemed in need of breaking in for Audioslave, whose recent time in Europe seems to have finally gelled them into less of a convenient collaboration and more of a genuine band. Chris Cornell, his pipes sounding stronger than ever, struck an appropriate balance between earnest and playful while Morello, alternately, ably proved why he’s one of the true guitar heroes still playing in venues that big.
Like Farrell, Cornell saw something vaguely spiritual about the weather. “I like the fireworks with all the thunder and lightning and the God sh–,” he said, as lightning periodically flashed nearby. “I like that.”
Dressed in a wife-beater and camouflage shorts, the former Soundgarden singer was visibly pleased by the response delivered for Audioslave album tracks like “Gasoline,” the sing-along-heavy “Set It Off” and “I Am the Highway,” which he tackled two-thirds of the way alone onstage with an acoustic guitar.
“We’re gonna make lots and lots of records, and come back many, many times,” Cornell assured the crowd before the dual bombast of “Show Me How to Live” and the most Rage Against the Machine-like of the band’s songs, “Cochise.” Judging by the constant roar of the crowd, which unlike the responses for other performers persisted during the band’s songs as well as between them, and the amount of people who left after their set concluded, Audioslave likely could have headlined the Verizon Wireless amphitheater by their lonesome.
Nevertheless, Jane’s Addiction were the official headliners, and besides the very bumpy beginning, managed not to disappoint by playing a healthy blend of Jane’s classics like “Summertime Rolls” and tracks from their forthcoming Strays, though, thanks no doubt to the rain delay, their set seemed abbreviated.
Playing on set pieces that looked like some kind of shiny stunt track for oversized Hot Wheels, Jane’s Addiction were flanked by three stripper-like dancers who writhed on curved poles, groped the bandmembers and filmed each other with a camera. Farrell himself swigged liberally from a wine bottle — even sharing it with a random audience member.
As flamboyant and erratic a performer as ever, he played primarily off of the red sparkly pants and (briefly) red feather boa-sporting Navarro, though he did occasionally wander over to bassist Chris Chaney and once playfully referred to powerhouse skin-basher Stephen Perkins as “Perky.”
Whether Farrell’s eccentricities helped him to overlook the day’s setbacks and shortcomings or simply made him oblivious to them is anyone’s guess, but after a six year gap in Lollapalooza runs and a cancelled tour opener in Michigan, after Saturday one thing is for certain: the show will go on.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.