In spite of a not-so-packed crowd, Nine Inch Nails rocked as legends do. Wiz Khalifa, Calvin Harris, Solange and more wrapped the festival as well.
It's difficult to overstate just how scarce the crowd was at Nine Inch Nails' headlining performance at the Budweiser Made in America Festival on Sunday night (Sept. 1). Compared to the bawdy, glowstick-laden audience that Calvin Harris accrued as the penultimate performer on the festival's final night--even compared to daytime acts like Wiz Khalifa and Miguel--Trent Reznor's following was shockingly thin. Made In America was not made for this kind of headliner.
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After two full days of music that was often marked by Top 40 hits, the industrial stomp of Nine Inch Nails apparently had the Macklemore fans calling it an early night on Sunday. By the final third of the NIN set, when all those who had treated the band as a curiosity had abandoned ship, fans could sashay to a spot 25 feet away from the Made In America main stage with ease. A rumored JAY Z appearance at the end of the performance never came, possibly because of the underwhelming crowd size.
For those who were wise enough to stick around for the final act, however, Nine Inch Nails presented a furiously paced, sonically rich show on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway. As soon as Reznor strolled onstage in all black and began twiddling with a Livid MIDI machine, the NIN mastermind was in complete control while remaining impossibly sweaty. The new songs, from their soon-to-be-released comeback record "Hesitation Marks," sounded satisfyingly swampy. Set opener "Copy of A" twitched and stumbled forward with damaged beats, while "Find My Way" made for a low-key chance for the crowd to catch its breath as Reznor and co. were bathed in blue light. Along with the blistering new single "Came Back Haunted," the fresh material sank right into Reznor's valley of hits.
Songs like "March of the Pigs" and "Head Like a Hole" are always going to garner immense reactions, but Nine Inch Nails injected new life into its older hits through a spectacular visual display. Reznor and his troupe were often standing in front of towering white panels, which reflected their shadows, turned into video screens and emitted extra light as strobes were blasting off at the back of the stage. The constantly shifting visuals were reminiscent of the floating TV panels Radiohead utilized on its King of Limbs tour, but Reznor was often more creative with their manipulation--on "Closer," for instance, the panels turned inward and the singer was trapped inside of them, as his face was showcased as a throbbing animation for the crowd. When Reznor soon reemerged, he led a sinister groove that rarely let up during the second half of the performance.
"There is! No! You!/There is only me!" Reznor screeched during a blindingly intense rendition of "Only." The first line might as well have been a reference to the crowd at Nine Inch Nails, but at the end of Made In America, there was only Reznor, treating the faithful to the immaculate show they deserved. Nine Inch Nails may not have won any popularity contests on Sunday, but the masses swaying during an encore of "Hurt" certainly didn't mind having a little extra room. -J.L.
Check out the other acts that rocked on Sunday.
Solange had one goal Sunday afternoon at the Liberty stage: to "turn this into one big junior high grind fest." She even gave an example. Up there on stage in a black '80s chic floral print shirt and 'fro swaying to the beat of her "Bad Girls," Solange put hands to knees and poked her rump out to show the ladies how to plant their asses into the closest pelvis. Some followed suit. All enjoyed the party. -B.W.
Kendrick Lamar and Black Hippy mates Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and ScHoolboy Q
It's safe to say that after the debut of Big Sean's "Control" (jokingly dubbed as Kendrick Lamar's due to his overpowering verse), more eyes are on Lamar. One of those sets, prior and during his and Black Hippy's entire set, are those of JAY Z. JAY was spotted watching the collective from VIP. After Black Hippy members (Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and ScHoolboy Q) warmed up the crowd with solo hits, Kendrick Lamar and his full band stormed the main stage to turn the hype up a notch. Lamar came out to perform hits from his Billboard 200 No. 1 album, "good kid, m.A.A.d city" and his guest verse from A$AP Rocky's "Fuckin' Problems." Unfortunately though three of four rappers (A$AP, Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz) on "Fuckin' Problems" performed at the festival, neither came out to perform with the other.) The crowd went crazy for every "GKMC" hit Kendrick Lamar performed such as "Money Trees," "Poetic Justice," "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe," and "Backseat Freestyle." While his "Control" verse sparked a social media hysteria, the rapper didn't perform it. -E.R.
Before Miguel took the Liberty stage, the crowd piled in only to overflow to the outskirts of the main stage area. The singer-songwriter kicked off his sensual set with "All I Want Is You" hit, "Sure Thing." Miguel, donning all white, transitioned to psychedelic "Kaleidoscope Dream" hits: "How Many Drinks?" "Use Me," and of course the Marvin Gaye influenced, "Adorn." Before closing his set with his collaborative song, "#Beautiful," Miguel surprised fans with a short but sweet verse from Bob Marley's "Stir It Up," at the tail end of his own, "Do You." -E.R.
AlunaGeorge’s Aluna Francis entered Made In America like a boxer in a ring, ready to take on the challenge of winning over American audiences with her distinctly British brand of electro-R&B. She was also literally dressed like a female boxer, draped in a silky white robe, hair up high in a ponytail and clad in a midriff tank emblazoned with a giant "A." Sunday marked AlunaGeorge's second U.S. gig ever, having just played Chicago's North Coast festival two days prior, and the duo's debut album "Body Music" just dropped in late July. So, Francis' concerns that festivalgoers might not know the group's music yet were understandable--on paper. "Do you guys get this song out here?" Francis asked before playing "White Noise," a UK No.1 hit the electropop duo recorded with fellow Brits Disclosure. Indeed, the daytime audience did know the anthemic house jam, even as producer George Reid flipped the beat into more of a midtempo ‘90s banger in the vein of Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance." And since futuristic soul jams like "You Know You Like It," "We Are Chosen" and "Your Love, Your Drums" have been making the music-blog rounds since 2011, the crowd was not unlike an overly prepared student taking their SATs--they've known the material for months and were ready to get down. Extra credit was even rewarded when Francis tossed in the band's cover of "This Is How We Do It," which won over any remaining skeptics. -B.W.
"We came to get high with each other," a chill Wiz Khalifa said to the sea of fans present at his mid-afternoon Sunday set. Smoke dispersed through the crowd, as Wiz Khalifa performed hits from his discography, from anthems as "Black and Yellow" and "Work Hard, Play Hard," to "The Thrill," which perfectly blends a sample of Empire of the Sun's "Walking On A Dream." -E.R.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Macklemore clearly is too big for the Liberty stage he performed on. With three smash singles in the last calendar year, he and his producer Ryan Lewis easily had a jam-packed crowd stomping on every piece of available grass in their zone. Appropriately wearing a Philadelphia Phillies jersey, Macklemore explained that the top was secondhand. The tongue-in-cheek talk segued into "Thrift Shop." During "Same Love," a cut about love being love--no matter the sex of the two giving it to each other, a pair of guys in the audience kissed and pulled away just in time to sing the hook to each other. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for sure should have performed on the main Rocky Stage. But scenes like that made rocking at one named "Liberty" make sense. -B.W.
Calvin Harris may have been technically made in Scotland, but you couldn't find a more definitive Made In America performance on Sunday when he played the night's penultimate set on the Liberty Stage. Yes, Calvin Harris is a superstar DJ in the vein of deadmau5, Skrillex and Avicii who spends his nights off from the EDM festival circuit playing the biggest nightclubs in Vegas. But what's made him the highest-paid DJ in the biz right now is simple: Harris is ultimately a pop music songwriter/producer, who writes fairly traditional, big-voiced, mega-chorused pop songs that happen to feature on-trend beat drops. So even though he can make asses shake uncontrollably, the ability to have something fans can sing along to as well gives him the upper hand. Whether it was opener "Sweet Nothings" (featuring Florence Welch), current single "I Need Your Love" (featuring Ellie Goulding) or the United Nations peace alliance that is Rihanna's "We Found Love," Harris couldn't have produced more smiling dance fans within a mile of Benjamin Franklin Parkway even if he'd paid them. And even though the former dance vocalist hasn't sung live in years, he nevertheless made prominent use of two of his own featured vocals, 2010's "Flashback" and his 2012 breakout "Feel So Close," which he cheekily saved for the set's end. Even though Nine Inch Nails was about to take over the Rocky Stage, Calvin Harris was his own sort of rock star for those 50 minutes. -A.H.