Lolla 2014: Best and worst performances
As always, the RedEye team was out at Lolla all weekend. This is the best and worst we saw at this year's fest.
Phantogram, 8:45 p.m. Friday at the Grove stage
This year, Phantogram easily was the one Lolla act that made me lose my damn mind, slamming through a perfectly curated set that's probably best described as Sleigh Bells-on-acid electronica. The intimacy of the Grove was the perfect setting here, but Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel deserve to get way too popular for this stage.
Runner-up: Glen Hansard, 5 p.m. Sunday at Lake Shore stage
Hansard could teach a master class to so many musicians on how to be a rock star. He cast a brilliant spell over the crowd, reminding us how much time we spend controlling our surroundings, and that it was time to just tip our heads back and get soaked by the rain. Then he strummed, howled and crooned his way through a lightning-fast hour, wearing his heart on his face in an expression of pure joy. – Dana Moran
Royal Blood, 6:50 p.m. Fri. at BMI stageRoyal Blood sounds good on its EP, “Out of the Black.” At Lolla, the English rockers absolutely exploded. It’s a cliché to praise a duo for making a sound befitting a larger band, but Royal Blood simply cranked—expert musicianship bringing the most out of a batch of tightly wound songs. The video below doesn’t come close to doing it justice. Really looking forward to the full-length on the way.
Runner-up: Skrillex, 8:30 p.m. Sun. at Bud Light stageI cannot overstate how surprised I am to be naming this set here. To be honest, I didn’t feel like braving the masses at Perry’s stage Sunday night (having already seen Chance the Rapper last year) and thought I’d give Skrillex a shot before taking off. Suddenly it’s 90 minutes later and I’ve danced more than I ever have in sandals. The footwear was a poor choice. Staying for a ridiculously fun, sweaty, communal dance bonanza wasn’t.
Runner-up: Run the JewelsSo many rappers really don't seem to care about what they say on record and how they perform on stage. This is not the case with El-P and Killer Mike, who are brilliant as solo artists and a really good pair as Run the Jewels. I saw them do most of these songs at Pitchfork 2013, and that took away none of the duo's impact and swagger. – Matt Pais
Childish Gambino, 6:45 Sunday at Bud Light StageIncorporating actual fire into his set, Donald Glover owned and covered every inch of the main stage during his hour-long slot with a live band that whirled through all of his breathlessly aggressive hits ("Backpackers," "Sweatpants") and squeezed in a few slower jams with Glover's often underrated vocals ("3005," "Heartbeat"). Did I mention rain pummeled the crowd for half of the set? That was fun. -Jessica Galliart Outkast, 8:15 p.m. Sat. at Samsung Galaxy stage Yeah, this is probably a lot of nostalgia talking, but Outkast was the perfect dance party-inducing end to a clear, sunny Saturday. They indulged the crowd with “Rosa Parks,” “Ms. Jackson,” “Hey Ya,” “Roses” and many others we would have been bummed not to shake it to. No complaints here.
Runner-up: Lucius, 2 p.m. Fri. at Palladia stageI wasn't sure how this Brooklyn act would translate to the Palladia stage early in the day, but despite a late start, the ladies brought it. From the perfectly matching outfits to a killer, mournful rendition of “Go Home,” Lucius had me smitten. – Kate Bernot
Outkast, 8:15 p.m. Sat. at Samsung Galaxy stageA triumphant return to form for the legendary Atlanta duo saw them roar through their packed catalog while keeping the crowd dancing. With the size of the turnout for their set, it shouldn't have been a surprise when Big Boi mentioned that Chicago is the second-largest fan base for the group, following its hometown. Blood Orange, 4:45 p.m. Fri. at the Grove stage The news that Dev Hynes (who performs under the alias Blood Orange) was allegedly assaulted by fest security deservedly took over the conversation. It doesn’t change the fact, however, that Hynes put together a dynamite set. Filled with moments of clear-cut funk that kept the intimate audience grooving, this was a well-crafted day 1 treat. – Ernest Wilkins
Eminem, 8:30 p.m. Friday at Samsung Galaxy stageEminem returned to the same stage where he headlined Lolla 2011. Again, he did not disappoint. He mixed in newer songs with the Slim Shady favorites we grew up with, then kicked his game up a notch when he brought Rihanna on stage for three full songs. And who doesn't love RiRi? She surprised and wowed the crowd, and Em's encore of "Lose Yourself" was the ideal way to end the first night of Lolla--all pumped up and excited for the rest of the weekend. -- Leonor Vivanco
Lorde, 6:45 p.m. Fri. at Bud Light stageNever, ever, has an artist seemed more real and honest with an audience than Lorde.
Runner-up: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, 2:45 p.m. Sun. at Bud Light StageThis is my 4th Lollapalooza. I've seen Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine and Lady Gaga (reluctantly). But Trombone Shorty put all of them to sleep. I don't get blown away often, but damn, Shorty had the Windy City swinging.
Runner-up: PAPA, 12:15 p.m. Sat. at Palladia stageThe best part of an act is when they are genuine. And PAPA was nothing but. When the diatribe about Chicago's South Side began, it was honest and awesome. – Mick Swasko
Iggy Azalea, 4:30 p.m. Friday at Perry's stageStunner of the year: Iggy Azalea sounds nothing like her recorded self. Her live voice sounds like an old frog with a heart murmur. Another stunner: She ended her Perry's set 15 minutes early on the heels of a terrible rendition of "Fancy." Will that song still be a highlight of my Bossy Lady Booty Jams playlist, though? Please, you already know. – Dana Moran Sure, "Fancy" is fun and anthemic, but pretty much everything else on Iggy's debut, "The New Classic," is better. So it should be live,as well. Leaving "Fancy" for the end makes sense but not if you're going to stumble all the way there. Too many hiccuped vocals and demands to throw middle fingers in the air got tiresome quickly and didn't do much for her already questionable cred. In front of one of the biggest crowds of the entire fest, Iggy failed to leave her mark. -Jessica Galliart
Many artists at Lolla 2014 showcased immense talent and authenticity. Iggy Azalea was not one of them. Terrible material sometimes can take on new life on stage, but Iggy went in the opposite direction. A bad, phony rapper doing bad songs badly. Painful. – Matt PaisI wanted to like Iggy as much as all the people who crammed into Perry's stage, but her performance fell flat. Perhaps, a difference stage would've been better? She just didn't have us moving and shaking it the whole performance, despite the crowd erupting for radio hit "Fancy." Another negative: She ended her set 15 minutes early. – Leonor Vivanco I couldn't get close to the Perry's stage--probably for the better--but despite the fact that the crowd was Iggy's fanbase to a T, the energy wasn't contagious. – Kate Bernot
The Last Internationale, 3:20 p.m. Sat. at BMI stageMusic with a political message doesn't have to be boring or preachy, but this band thought it should be. Its sound was "meh" at best, and sermons about political prisoners between songs were lost on a crowd with several members wearing non-authentic American Indian headdresses. Runner-up: Iggy Azalea, 4:30 p.m. Fri. at Perry’s stage I may get hell for this, and I'll preface by saying I really like Iggy. But the crowd wanted "Fancy," and it was phoned in. So disappointed. – Mick Swasko
Smallpools, 5:15 p.m. Sat. at the Grove stageThe sound of a thousand mediocre car commercials came to life Saturday. While the band’s vibe skewed more toward, "triumphant scene where the high school nerd gets his kiss" upon preview listening, the live show left me feeling more like, "scene where the nerd gets an atomic wedgie while surrounded by drunk teens."
Runner-up: Iggy Azalea, 4:30 p.m. Fri. at Perry's stageI don't give a damn how catchy "Fancy" is; enough is enough. – Ernest Wilkins
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC