A combination of explosions, cover songs, toilet paper guns, stage dives, and crowd participation sealed the deal: There's no topping Green Day at Lollapalooza 2010. The punk veterans played a thrilling, two-and-a-half-hour-long set made up of tracks from last year's "21st Century Breakdown" and 2004's "American Idiot," balanced with plenty of favorites like "Basketcase," "Hitchin' a Ride," "Brain Stew" and "When I Come Around."
Several times throughout the set, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong told the crowd to go crazy, but no one needed prompting. There were teenage boys grabbing each other's shoulders and screaming the lyrics to each other, 20-somethings wishing they were teenagers again, and toddlers waving their arms while sitting on their parents' shoulders. That's not to say everything was an all-ages affair: In true Green Day fashion, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong dropped plenty of F-bombs and mooned the crowd a couple of times. And just when fans thought he had played nice with a little girl he brought on stage (he had her wave her arms, then pretend to drop dead with him when fireworks went off), he sent her back to her parents by asking, "Do you want to start a fucking war?!"
Video: Green Day at Lollapalooza
Unlike Friday night's headliners, Green Day made crowd participation a priority. Armstrong invited fans on stage during a few songs, to dance around or take a stage dive back into the crowd (which had fans holding their breath), but the most memorable came during "Longview," when he called a "skinny little shit" up to take over the vocals. The fan kissed Armstrong on the lips before singing the song, and when Armstrong gave him his guitar at the end and the fan teared up, the emotions carried over to the rest of the crowd, too.
Later, Armstrong wore a purple boa and police officer hat, bassist Mike Dirnt wore cat ears, and drummer Tre Cool donned a red bra and huge glasses to perform "King For A Day," along with a medley of songs including "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Chicago Chicago," "Hey Jude" and "Shout."
For their encore, Armstrong dedicated "Jesus of Suburbia" to "anyone from a small, shitty, fucked-up town," followed by "Wake Me Up When September Ends," "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," and a whole lotta fireworks.
Phoenix closed out the north-side mainstage with a set of synth-heavy indie rock culled largely from its 2009 breakthrough record, "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix," as well as some older favorites. Thomas Mars and his bandmates kicked off with "Lisztomania," ended with "1901" and kept the party going while expressing thanks for the throngs that turned out to see them as Green Day rocked nearby. Though it was the same set that Phoenix has been playing at festivals for the past two years, the formula still works.
At the same time, Australia's Empire of the Sun made its Stateside debut as the final spot on Perry's beat-heavy stage. With dancers in crazy costumes and a fervent crowd, it felt like Cirque du Soleil on ecstasy -- slightly less of a spectacle than Lady Gaga's Friday set, but a spectacle nonetheless.
Video: Empire of the Sun at Lollapalooza
Most of the day seemed to be a battle between punk and indie rock: In the latter category, Grizzly Bear's gorgeous four-part harmonies translated impressively for an outdoor setting, the xx dressed inappropriately in all black and drew an enormous crowd, and Australian electro-poppers Cut Copy introduced the crowd to a lot of new material.
One of the most enthusiastic indie rock-leaning sets of the day came from the hippie-folk collective Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, who performed for devoted fans who were already crammed together a good half hour before start time. The group probably should've been scheduled on one of the main stages, but the smaller setup made it easier for frontman Alex Ebert to jump into the crowd, which happened a couple times throughout the set and also during the encore (yes, fans demanded an encore for a band playing a side stage) when Ebert asked the crowd to sit down around him for the acoustic song "Brother." Fans exploded when they played their best-known track, "Home," but also sang, jumped and clapped along to favorites like "40 Day Dream" and "Janglin."
Video: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros at Lollapalooza
The pre-Green Day lineup on the south end of the park included goth rockers AFI and the legendary Social Distortion. Before that was Gainesville, Florida's Against Me!, led by Tom Gabel, who told Billboard.com that Green Day was his first concert at 13 or 14 years old. Against Me! -- currently a five-piece, with former Hold Steady member Franz Nicolay as an exciting new addition on keyboards and accordion -- played one of the strongest sets of the day, with charged anthems about politicians, abortion and rebellion. There was a constant mosh pit a few feet back from the stage, and fans kept the security guys alert as they crowd-surfed to the front during songs like "Miami," "Baby, I'm an Anarchist," and "Don't Lose touch."
Pieces from the group's new record, "White Crosses," were also in perfect shape, especially the title track and "I Was A Teenage Anarchist." There wasn't much banter with the crowd, but the constant smile on Gabel's face and the little he said was enough: "This has been fucking fantastic!"
Additional reporting by Tye Comer.