On Sunday, Arcade Fire was back, this time to headline, but the once universally adored group is at a critical low point following the release of its polarizing dance album, Everything Now.
Here are five takeaways from Lollapalooza’s final day.
The fire still burns within: When Win Butler was singing, “Every time you smile it’s a fake” from the song Everything Now at Lollapalooza Sunday, could he have been referring to himself?
Arcade Fire’s frontman, and his wife and bandmate Regine Chassagne, sported waxy, strained grins that started to fade as the ABBA-indebted, pan-flute-flaunting single progressed. Perhaps it wasn’t intended as a symbolic gesture, but combined with the cynical lyrics and Sarah Neufeld’s eerie violin, the visual transformed Everything Now into something more profound than a dance jam.
Yes, Arcade Fire is different now, and no, its new sound doesn’t always work. That was clearly evident Sunday during Signs of Life, when the band grooved itself into a corner, the energy slowly deflating like a fading pulse.
Yet the band still strives for meaning, and the captivating initial spark is still burning. It practically erupted during Rebellion (Lies) from its landmark Funeral album. With Will Butler banging a tom drum in the crowd, and Arcade Fire and fans singing with unified warrior cries, Arcade Fire was once again that unstoppable band that stood out at Lolla 12 years ago, ready to change the world.
A massive audience for Lil Yachty: Lollapalooza’s planners should have known better. “Bubblegum trap” rapper Lil Yachty has had one of the quickest ascents in recent years, yet for some inexplicable reason, he was placed at the Petrillo Band Shell (christened “Tito’s” at the festival), a significantly smaller stage, with a far narrower layout, then all of the main stages.
The result was another massive cluster of smashed bodies, like at Chance the Rapper’s set Saturday, but in many ways, worse. Fans were climbing trees, fences, light poles, even storming the roof of a structure behind the light and sound tent. Early on, eight nervous security guards held up a wobbly fence, like a scene from The Walking Dead, slowly letting people into a VIP section to reduce congestion.
And Yachty was actually egging on the crowd, even restarting Carnage’s Mase in ‘97 three times until the energy level was to his liking. It was so chaotic, people didn’t even seem to notice that Chance was on stage at the end.
Perhaps someone whispered in Yachty’s ear, or he just came to his senses, because in between all the unnecessary hype-fanning, he uttered occasional, and needed, words of caution, like, “We need to stay safe in this (expletive).”
Ultimately, the people on that shed came down, the fence situation was secured, and the show went the full hour. But if Yachty had been booked for a bigger stage, this potentially hazardous situation could have been avoided.
A terrific triple-bill: Here’s a tour we need next summer: Tove Lo, Charli XCX and Maggie Rogers. In an inspired bit of scheduling, the three female pop artists delivered empowering, dance-friendly back-to-back sets mid-afternoon Sunday.
Most people’s first sight of Maggie Rogers was last year’s viral video of a New York University class, where she meekly sat next to a misty-eyed Pharrell Williams as he listened to her gorgeous song Alaska. Now it was Rogers’ turn to be emotional, suggesting she was overwhelmed to be on a Lolla stage as she closed with Alaska, although with her euphoric set, she proved she deserved to be there.
Charli XCX was one of Lolla’s brightest stars in 2015, but three weeks later, she abruptly canceled several dates of a tour with Bleachers. There was no doubt of her commitment Sunday as she bounced around like a pumped-up prizefighter for Roll With Me, and reminded the crowd what a banger I Love It, her once annoyingly overplayed song for Icona Pop, really is. There was another surprise pop staple in the set, the Spice Girls’ Wannabe, which featured an even bigger surprise: happy-go-lucky special guest Halsey.
At a time where even megastars like Katy Perry are having an identity crisis, Tove Lo knows exactly who she is and what she wants to say. At Lollapalooza she zeroed in on her favorite topic — how desire can teeter precariously between liberation and destruction — with confident performances of True Disaster and Influence.
Collaborators take center stage: It’s a shame that Chance the Rapper didn’t invite more of his Chicago collaborators to perform with him at Lollapalooza Saturday night, but at least one of them, Noname, had a whole set to herself Sunday. Supported by a backing band as soulful and skilled as Chance’s Social Experiment, Noname used her slam poetry roots to nimbly, yet casually, drop sublime rhymes for All I Need and Diddy Bop. She doesn’t have the same flash as Chance — yet — but she too conveys an endearing humility, and her verses can be just as uplifting, playful, and quietly devastating.
R&B up-and-comer Sampha at Lolla Sunday also shared some similarities with two artists he’s collaborated with — Frank Ocean and Solange — using sparseness and vulnerability to draw in the listeners as he sang (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano with longing falsetto.
A sweet sendoff from the Shins: “I know that things can get really rough,” James Mercer sang from the Shins’ 2012 single Simple Song early Sunday evening. After four days of Lollapalooza, you bet it’s been rough. But Mercer’s engaged presence—not always a guarantee in earlier years—the gentleness of a sparse New Slang, that spirited snippet of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ American Girl, they were simple reminders why the blisters and sunburns and overbearing crowds and rough weather were all worth it.
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