In the final minutes of the first day of Lollapalooza (August 2) in Chicago—now in its 10th consecutive year after a 2003 revival--10,000 or so people held lighters and hugged shoulders and sang in unison along with Nine Inch Nails' devastating ballad “Hurt,” a song so moving that Johnny Cash chose to cover it for one of his last recordings.

PHOTOS: Lollapalooza 2013
Nine Inch Nails Roars Back To Life at Lolla
Full Lollapalooza 2013 Coverage

Some of the NIN fans weren't even born when the song was first released on “The Downward Spiral” in 1994, but they still knew the words. It was a satisfying ending to a day of overflowing crowds, schizophrenic weather and more than 50 performances from both new, veteran and legacy acts that included New Order, the Killers, Imagine Dragons, Queens of the Stone Age, Jessie Ware, Band of Horses and Icona Pop.

Nine Inch Nails were a welcome headliner, back on tour and with a new album on the way after frontman Trent Reznor had more than once in recent years suggested the band could be done for good.

Nine Inch Nails Roars Back To Life At Lollapalooza Friday

LOLLAPALOOZA 2013 PHOTOSQUEENS OF THE STONE AGE

Queens of the Stone Age sprinkled its face-melting early-evening set on the Bud Light stage with newer goodies like "My God Is The Sun" from "…Like Clockwork" (which hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 earlier this year) and older barnburners alike (2002's "No One Knows," 2006's "Burn The Witch"). "We're trying to get loose and give you a night you'll never remember," quipped frontman Josh Homme ahead of an onslaught of the big, dirty rock-disco of "Clockwork" tunes "If I Had A Tail" and "Smooth Sailing." And while Homme's badass riffs incited a frenzy of headbanging and a few mudsplattered crowdsurfers, a tag-team of barefoot, black-clad sign language interpreters down front turned in championship-level air guitar shredding. Which sort-of gave new meaning to 2002's "Songs For The Deaf," which closed the set in a hail of whiplash-inducing guitars and drum solos.

• Like NIN, also in resurgence mode was legendary post-punk band New Order, back on the road sporadically since 2011 without estranged original bassist Peter Hook. The band delivered high-energy, often somewhat extended dance versions of classics like “Bizarre Love Triangle,” “Blue Monday” and “Temptation,” by which time a sludgy, ecstatic multi-generational dance party had hit full throttle in a section of wet mud on the grounds in front of the Red Bull Sound Select stage. More than once, frontman Bernard Sumner mentioned feeling at home in Chicago because it is the American city that reminds him most of his native Manchester. As is their custom in recent performances, New Order closed the set with “Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” both by Joy Division, the band from which New Order rose after singer Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980.

• New Order had opened their set with 2001's “Crystal,” performed against a backdrop of the song's video that features a fictional band called the Killers; particularly appropriate as the act that followed New Order onstage at Lollapalooza was the Killers, who took their name from that very video. In addition to monstrous hits like “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me,” the Las Vegas alt-rockers performed their cover of Joy Division's “Shadowplay,” joined by Sumner himself.

• When Lollapalooza throws a curveball like an early-set power outage, how else do you recover than with a crowdsurf? That was Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds approach, taking to the sea of fans during “Radioactive” near the end of the band’s nearly-doomed set, which was delayed about 10 minutes after the power went out barely three songs in. “Thanks for bearing with us, the show must go on!” Reynolds said as the band tuned up. The year’s breakout rock band proved to be worth the wait, and soon had all within reach of the Lake Shore stage clapping and chanting along to anthems like “It’s Time” and “Demons” before the kinetic finale.

LOLLAPALOOZA BACKSTAGE VIDEO Q&As

• Mud revelers had a series of afternoon rain storms to thank for their dance pit--one of which had hit right in the middle of a 1:45pm set by Swedish duo Icona Pop, at which point singer Caroline Hjelt yelled “It's raining, right? Fuck you!” The duo, whose smash 2012 single “I Love It” has steadily climbed the Hot 100 to peak at No. 7, is getting ready to release a new album stateside in September—festivals like Lollapalooza are their best chance to demonstrate to U.S. Audiences what else they have to offer beyond their ubiquitous hit. Hjelt introduced one of these new songs, “Then We Kiss,” as an ode to “making out, because we love it so much. It's about the music, but also about making out with strangers that you'll never see again.”

• During Band of Horses' mid-afternoon set on the massive Bud Light stage Friday, frontman Ben Bridwell wore his feelings about the recent death of rock songwriting great J.J. Cale on his sleeve -- literally. The band grooved through southern-fried favorites like "Laredo" and "No One's Gonna Love You" (which Bridwell dedicated to his girls at home watching the webcast) with Bridwell leading the charge wearing a sweat-drenched J.J. Cale t-shirt. "We miss him dearly," the singer said of Cale, who was famed for writing tunes like the Eric Clapton hit "After Midnight." "This one goes out to him wherever he is," Bridwell said before BOH pulled out a spooky, mellow, organ-infused cover of Cale's "13 Days."

• Few performers have been more psyched to play a daytime set at Lollapalooza than U.K. soul singer Jessie Ware, who practically glowed during her 3:15 set on the Petrillo’s Stage. Clad in a flowing kimono-like jacket, a black midriff top and Hammer pants, complete with a ‘90s ponytail straight out of one of her music videos, Ware dazzled with hits from her breakthrough debut “Devotion” (“Imagine It Was Us,” “Wildest Moments,” “Sweet Talk”) with a few nods to some of the R&B legends who’ve most inspired her (snippets of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” and Sade’s “The Moon & The Sky” could be heard woven into several of her best ballads.) Bursting with excitement to engage with the modestly sized yet rapturous crowd, Ware took to the rafters at the end during her finale performance of “Running” to shake and high-five the hands of all within reach.  Ware was also one of the weekend’s hardest-working acts, with three full-length Chicago concerts in 24 hours and a fourth set for Saturday afternoon at the Hard Rock.

• “Seriously, we get to play at festivals all around the world for the last two years and it’s so nice to be able to finally play our home country,” Lana Del Rey gushed at the beginning of her headlining set on The Grove stage. Indeed, Lollapalooza marked quite a triumphant homecoming for the singer, having not played an official U.S. show in over a year, following a whirlwind 18 months of hype, backlash and ultimately commercial success. Her debut album “Born To Die” was recently certified gold, as was “Great Gatsby” single “Young & Beautiful,” which reached No. 22 on the Hot 100 earlier this summer. Confident and sensual, Del Rey sported a look that suggested a rock ‘n roll Jesus, complete with flowing brown hair, white headband, and a choir robe-like red gown (not to mention a smoking apparatus that may or may not have been a joint.) She also seemed much more at ease onstage than her notoriously wobbly performances in late 2011 and early 2012, likely the strategic result of honing her live chops overseas before subjecting herself to overly judgmental U.S. audiences again. But there was no snark here, only intense reverence. After all, it seemed like 4 out of every 10 girls at the show was donning some kind of flowered headband in tribute to their hero. She even let the crowd take the mic during several parts of key songs, like opener “Cola” (“I got’s a taste for guys who are older”) and fan favorite “Blue Jeans.” By the time she got to closer “National Anthem,” the focus was less on Del Rey and more on the rapturous vibe she had created. Considering she was competing with monster crowds for modern anthems at other stages like “Mr. Brightside” and “Hurt,” it’s no small feat that Del Rey was able to get a sea of be-flowered fans to sing along to a gentle ballad about playing “Video Games.”

• Over at "the Grove" stage under the trees shielding the grey sky, U.K. electronic duo Disclosurepacked in a steaming mass and set them to synchronized head-bobbing and arm-waving with a steady stream of ass-moving beats that truly erupted when the pair of brothers (Guy and Howard Lawrence) kicked into "White Noise."

 

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