Lollapalooza ends on a high note on day two

6:05 p.m. Austin-by-way-of-Cincinnati quartet Heartless Bastards opts to cleave its set in two. The band opens with an assortment of sturdy, bar-rock crowd pleasers (“Only For You” and a primordial “Skin and Bone” that comes across like a modern update on the Pretenders' “My City Was Gone”) before making a sharp left into more experimental and ultimately more fulfilling territory. “Marathon” stretches out just as its title suggests, frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom howling and moaning atop slow-burning guitars that conjure images of the wide-open Texas landscape. “The Arrow Killed the Beast” exhibits similar patience, and the crew takes its time to explore the musical byways like a tourist content to lose his or herself in a new city. (AD)

6:25 p.m.: British quintet Foals ranges from keyboard fragility to funnel-cloud guitar rave-ups in a set that builds like a big wave. The Morse-code guitars suggest Eastern sitars one minute, Mississippi Delta blues slide the next. The epic closer, "Two Steps, Twice" sets a trance-like mood and then escalates from there, inspiring outbreaks of dancing, before crashing to a close. (GK)

6:44 p.m.: For a band that sings songs about coming apart, the National sounds remarkably together. Usually, the group's dynamic nuances get devoured on bigger stages. Not here. The Brooklyn-by-way-of-Ohio quintet may have peaked on record, but it's currently giving notice that live, it strings along tension and takes beautiful, slow-burn arrangements to full-bore fruition with the mastery, sophistication and focused theater of a veteran jazz outfit. Two brassy horns supplement foundations held down by drummer Bryan Devendorf, whose advanced signatures and nimble textures complement vocalist Matt Berninger's channeling of disturbed protagonists. Characters in the National's narratives walk tightropes of indecision, uncertainty, mistrust, obsessiveness and sorrow. Berninger brings them to life with tortured physical movements and confessional outpourings that should concern any competent psychiatrist. Ditto the brief moments he can't control his inner demons, leading to frightening fits where his soul-probing baritone rises to a throaty roar, melancholy turns to anger and murder seems imminent. Carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, the vocalist's admissions double as cautionary statements: "You should know me better than that"; "I can hardly stand up right"; "If I stay here trouble will find me"; "I wish I didn't sleep so late"; "My mind's not right"; "It's a terrible love and I'm walking with spiders." Dourness has rarely sounded so cathartic. (BG)

6:48 p.m. When last seen, at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park last year, Kendrick Lamar was still a relative unknown except to hip-hop connoisseurs. His set came off as hazy and introspective, with a curious Lady Gaga hanging on every word from the wings. But now he emerges with newfound swagger -- even without Gaga in the house -- smoke machines at his feet and a full band at his back. His 2012 album, "good kid, m.A.A.d. city," puts a new and brilliantly introspective take on West Coast gangsta rap, a look at its tropes and pressures from the inside out. So even as he leads the crowd in some explicit choruses, he throws out questions and lays out his conflicts in the verses. "This will be on the Internet," he announces. Ya think? The audience cheers him like a rock star, even when he stands on stage with arms folded. But he doesn't just bask in the glow. He tries to put it in context, much in the way his rhymes try to make sense of hip-hop and the culture that birthed it. "You can't classify what we got going on," he says to the fans. "This is life." (GK)

7:28 p.m.: Prepare for a mass sing-a-long. The Lumineers instruct a sea of fans to help with their ubiquitous hit "Hey Ho." Fans abide, but what should be a communal memory feels anticlimactic. Forget about the broken guitar string. The Denver ensemble's stripped-down roots folk is simply mismatched to the setting. Alas, the David-versus-Goliath juxtaposition isn't the Lumineers fault, even if the decision to perform two songs off-stage to be nearer to the crowd should've been reconsidered. Toy pianos, small xylophones, cellos and acoustic guitars can't stand up against constant chatter and an overwhelming amount of people. Still, the band tries. A scampering cover of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" jumps with pep and "Dead Sea" rolls along with traditional sea-chantey charm. When pressed, Wesley Schultz' voice contains signs of last-call hoarseness. "Stubborn Love" triggers another sing-a-long. Yet it's almost all for not. The Lumineers' faint, in-miniature rusticism demands a smaller, quieter environment. And that's certainly not here. (BG)

7:45 p.m.: Chicago's Supreme Cuts, an electronic crew anchored by DJs Austin Keultjes and Mike Perry, becomes the latest Lollapalooza casualty when technical difficulties cause the group to abort its performance before it even takes root. “Our computer's breaking now,” they say, “So we're gonna figure out what we're gonna do.” After a fitful ten minutes spent tinkering with equipment, the set finally evolves into a performance from the group's five-person R&B side project Jody. The backing tracks themselves aren't far removed from Supreme Cuts musical output, and the airy grooves favor creeping atmosphere over sheer physicality. In terms of the subject matter, the songs appear to be largely about smoking weed and getting laid — often at the same time. But the group's enthusiasm, and its ability to spin lemons from lemonade, is worthy of applause. (AD)

8:30 p.m.: Standing on the north end of Grant Park it's easy to imagine how Cillian Murphy felt when he woke up in “28 Days Later” and humanity had disappeared entirely from the planet. Ok, so that's certainly an exaggeration, but as the Postal Service kicks off its headlining set it's clear a bulk of the audience has chosen to take in Mumford & Sons across the park. This despite the fact that earlier in the day frontman Ben Gibbard took to Twitter to announce Saturday's Lollapalooza performance and Sunday's show at Metro would be the band's last. With the city skyline as a striking visual backdrop, the quartet delves into majestic versions of songs like “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” and “Nothing Better,” a heartbroken number bathed in percolating synthesizers. The set draws heavily from the group's sole album, “Give Up,” which was first released in 2003 and recently received the deluxe reissue treatment to mark its 10th anniversary. While the record certainly has its charms, the songs themselves sound more muscular and dynamic here in the live setting due at least in part to the edition of Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis, who chips in on backing vocals and guitar. Gibbard also appears to be enjoying himself immensely, taking up the drums on “We Will Become Silhouettes” and harmonizing with Lewis on a thumping “Clark Gable.” Darker shades do emerge on a downbeat “This Place Is a Prison,” but it's a brief negative blip for a band that continually seeks out optimism amongst the ruins. Assuming the Postal Service holds to its word, this is not a bad way to go out. (AD)  

8:58 p.m.: Initiation? Annoying Bad Things front man Davis LeDuke smears red lipstick across guitarist Shaun White's face during "Anybody" then tosses the makeup into the sparse crowd. About 200 curious onlookers watch the replacements for Death Grips, with others stopping by just to get a glimpse at White, who for the time being has traded his snowboard and surfboard in for a lead guitar. As celebrity musicians go, he's passable, almost anonymous in an all-black outfit. But he's also second fiddle to the group's synth-heavy sound: prim, proper and well-rehearsed. Yes, fame pays. Bad Things is signed to Warner Bros., which will probably seek out (and secure) commercial airplay with a big-budget marketing campaign. At least White remains largely inconspicuous and doesn't call attention to himself. Then again, perhaps he should. However spotless, Bad Things' vanilla synth-rock could use jolts of boldness and originality. Besides, the Killers already played last night. No wonder fans late to hear about the Death Grips' cancellation storm off in a huff. (BG)

9:08 p.m.: Mumford & Sons draws a huge crowd in Hutchinson Field, rivaling the attendance of any Lollapalooza headliner in past years, but dissipates all that good will. After performing the hit "Lover of the Light" and a coincidental fireworks display in the southern sky, the pacing slows, and the band's sleepy dynamics coupled with sound bleed from the nearby Perry's DJ stage disrupts the momentum. About two-thirds through the set, the fans are leaving in droves and the field is less than half full. When the U.K. quartet first appeared at Lollapalooza in 2010, they played a brisk, bracing, relatively brief afternoon set that stamped them as rising stars. But they haven't grown into the role of headliners thrust upon them by two straight multimillion-selling albums. A few musical elements distinguish them: a cappella harmonies, the folk-on-steroids choruses, the gimmick-free presentation. But their songs fall into two general categories: gentle hyms and arena-folk anthems that start at a near-whisper and finish on the "bombastic" setting. The lack of tonal and melodic variety becomes apparent over the long haul of a two-hour show. (GK)


 

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