Shining a Light at Lollapalooza
By Andy Argyrakis, senior editor, gmclife.com
Anyone who’s kept tabs on Lollapalooza has surely noticed a gradual shift from an underground alternative rock event to one of the most sought after destination festivals on earth. Though purists may complain at its commercial tendencies these days, there was plenty to diversity from all dials of the radio at this year’s event, including some overtly spiritual acts and others with glimpses of God throughout its music. Check out our exclusive photo gallery.
Burning up some Arcade Fire
Cut from a similar cloth as U2 or Bruce Springsteen, the leader makes average feelings of yearning and longing take on much greater depth, while his assessments on everything from pop culture going sour to politics becoming muddy are intriguing and insightful. Along with the band’s stunning wall of sounds, symphony of harmonies and monstrous choruses, it’s easy to see why the third time appears to be the charm in the already prolific Arcade Fire’s ascent.
Crossover titans carry the torch
San Diego surf rockers Switchfoot were also in full blown stadium shaking mode, which despite an earlier than deserved afternoon set, was loaded with guitar-charged growls and frontman Jon Foreman’s frequent dives into the crowd (even getting his hipster slacks stained with mud). Past tunes like “Dare You to Move” and “Stars” were blended with the Led Zeppelin-leaning new album Hello Hurricane, which is once again steeped in the band’s socially conscious songwriting. Perhaps the most poignant moment of the set was when Foreman had the fans join him for the oldie “Meant to Live,” which found the primarily secular audience chanting the redemption-centered bridge loudly and proudly: “We want more than this world’s got to offer/ We want more than the wars of our fathers/And everything inside screams for second life.”
Soul, solo and new stars
Yet it was the suit-clad, neo-soul crooner Raphael Saadiq that truly made the sweaty audience swoon during a blistering afternoon set, mixing old-time gospel and Motown muses like Stevie Wonder, Al Green and Marvin Gaye. Speaking of legendary singers, Chicago’s own Mavis Staples (of The Staples Singers fame) had no trouble translating her timeless messages of civil rights, self-esteem and down home gospel goodness (with a little help from surprise guest Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame) to the all ages audience, ensuring her relevance after nearly 60 years in show business.
Additional inspiration came courtesy of Ed Kowalczyk, best known as Live’s lead singer, but now a solo artist being distributed in both the general market and Christian stores. Songs off his debut disc Alive left no questions about his previously ambiguous faith as he offered up everything from inspirational poetry to unabashed praise. Of course, a set from a performer of his magnitude wouldn’t be complete without a few previous chart smashes and he obliged with the joy-filled “Heaven,” which helped bridge the gap between the alternative act he led since 1988 and the additional freedom to let down his guard when it comes to sharing personal convictions on his own terms.
In terms of relative newcomers, it was impossible not to notice Hot Chip’s affinity for all things retro, evidenced by an onslaught of sugary synths and contagious programming. Though London’s Mumford & Sons are anchored in a folk songwriting style, epic crescendos at just about every corner put these relative newcomers right behind Arcade Fire, providing yet another example of Lollapalooza’s ongoing goal to blur styles and sounds.
About the Writer
Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He’s also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).
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