CHICAGO — Unless you happen to play in one of Perry Farrell’s bands (and that band happens to be Jane’s Addiction), the opportunity to headline Lollapalooza doesn’t come around all that often. So, if you get your shot, you might as well go for it. And that was very much the mindset of both of Saturday’s (August 7) bill-toppers, though, much like Friday night’s Lady Gaga/Strokes face-off , Green Day and Phoenix were a study in contrasts. Both definitely rocked, they just did in very different ways.
Green Day, of course, pummeled, powered, and pulled out all the stops during their two-plus hour set, reaching deep into their expansive back catalog and using every crowd-pleasing trick in the rock-band hat. And then they invented a few more stunts just for the sake of it. Seriously, if it weren’t for the city of Chicago’s noise ordinances, they’d probably still be at it.
Bottle-blonde Billie Joe Armstrong bounded back and forth across the stage, led the crowd in countless sing-a-longs, pranced, danced, collapsed, rose again, and at one point, played a solo with his guitar behind his head. While standing on one leg. He pulled kids young and old from the crowd–letting them sing choruses (on “East Jesus Nowhere”) or entire songs (“Longview,” which was belted out by a kid who totally, completely killed it), assisting them in stage dives, or fire off water cannons. He shouted “Chicago!” more times than the entire Daley clan combined. He donned a feather boa. He mooned the crowd. He fired off T-shirt cannons and toilet paper guns. And at no point did he appear to even be the slightest bit tired.
“They said they’re gonna pull the plug on us at 10 … I told them to kiss my f–king ass, we’ll play for as long as we want,” he shouted at one point.
“You paid your hard-earned money to buy a ticket to tonight,” he yelled later in the set. “It is my honor and my privilege to give you the best f—ing show you’ve ever seen in your life.”
And judging by the boundless energy displayed by his Green Day mates, he wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Mike Dirnt scowled and strutted, always keeping his bass thuddingly precise. Tre Cool vamped it up on an extended version of the Isley Brother’s “Shout” (while wearing a sun hat, horn-rimmed spectacles and a red brazier, it should be noted), and kept the back beat cracking. At this point, Green Day are a poundingly precise Rock and Roll machine, as evidenced by the covers they effortlessly worked into the set–everything from the opening riffs of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” and the first verse of the Guns ‘N Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to the chorus of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”–and the sheer spectacle of their show, an eye-popping, ear-splitting series of pyro bursts and fireworks explosions.
Oh, and obviously, the songs were pretty terrific too: “21st Century Breakdown” spanned several changes but was always focused and crowd-uniting, “Hitching A Ride” thundered along and eventually broke into a fiery crescendo, “She” was zip-gun speedy, and “Brain Stew/Jaded” started crunchy and static, stretched into a lengthy jam (complete with water/T-shirt cannon interlude), then came rifling home at a breakneck pace. There were a dozen other highlights. Simply put, Green Day know how to put on a rock show. A big, loud, bombastic one. And when they finally closed with “Jesus of Suburbia,” they certainly didn’t need a break … but the crowd might very well have.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Grant Park, there was a rock show of a different sort happening. On the one hand, Phoenix aren’t the typical Lollapalooza headliner. For one thing, they are French — as in, extremely French. Their brand of European formalism doesn’t necessarily jive with the freewheeling energy on the grounds at Lolla.
Then again, they’re really the ideal headliner for Saturday night. Their jaunty mix of jangly indie rock, easy singalong melodies and groovy, dance-friendly electronic froth sound like the favorite band of one of the characters on Perry Farrell’s Satellite Party record. After a warm day at Lollapalooza, they provided a soothing antidote to the heat and the growing exhaustion among the festival-goers. Their smooth, easy tunes cascaded over Grant Park and engulfed the thousands gathered in a swirl of Euro-disco-rock giddiness.
Frontman Thomas Mars seemed genuinely touched by the heavy crowd gathered for their headlining set. They turned up the energy immediately, kicking off the set with “Lisztomania,” the kickoff track from their Grammy-winning album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Though the clearly committed crowd greeted the group’s older tunes (like “Long Distance Call” and “Everything Is Everything”) warmly, it was the Wolfgang songs that really won the evening. The ubiquitous “1901” surfed its killer synth riff into the ether, while “Lasso” inspired all sorts of manic dance moves among the revelers.
It was a fitting end to a funky, groovy day at Lollapalooza. Cut Copy preempted the Phoenix set with a batch of pounding beat science, Spoon brought a classic rock swagger to their deep catalog, AFI super-charged the afternoon with a blast of glammy goth and Against Me! laid out the huge riffs of White Crosses for a refreshing aggro jolt. With 48 hours of Lollapalooza in the books, the energy remains high and the performances continue to deliver in surprising ways. Just probably not at the same level Green Day did. Or Phoenix, too.
Lollapalooza 2010 is happening now — make sure to check out MTV News’ Lollapalooza Live, streaming Saturday and Sunday at 5 p.m., right here on MTV.com. And follow all of Lollapalooza on the MTV Newsroom blog.