Lollapalooza 2013: The Cure, Phoenix, Vampire Weekend Cap Day 3
Lollapalooza served up the alt-pop to close out the festival's final night in Grant Park. Goth godfathers The Cure left fans with smiles on their faces as they delivered a set of their most classic and poppiest confections on the south stage, while France's Phoenix kept the energy high with newer anthems on the north end. In addition to the night's headliners, standout sets by Vampire Weekend, Tegan and Sara, Two Door Cinema Club and more kept Lolla's sunny Sunday on an upbeat tip all day.
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Here are our highlights from the final day of Lollapalooza, circa 2013:
• You're never quite sure what type of Cure show you're in for when the band walks on stage. On some occasions, the group wallows in dark and moody melodies for more than three hours. But for Lollaplooza 2013 -- the band's first time at the festival -- they left the frowns at home and bounced through a set of their most recognized and festival-friendly tunes. Frontman Robert Smith seemed more like a mad, jolly clown than a god of gloom and doom as the led the quintet through a string of tunes that included "Just Like Heaven," "Friday I'm in Love," "Close to Me" and "Love Song." The song selection was elevated by the strength of Smith's distinctive vocals, which haven't seemed to tarnish a bit over the years. The set wasn't all fun and games – moodier fare like "100 Years" and "Disintegration" also made it to the stage – but this was the Cure at its cuddliest, and Smith made no apologies for his bubbly mood as he danced like a marionette losing it strings for much of the set.
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Having a strict curfew of 10PM, the Cure couldn't wander through multiple encores of obscure gems. Instead, the band played a tight two-hour set that treated diehards to whimsical gems like "The Lovecats," "The Caterpillar" and a set-closing rendition of "Boy's Don't Cry" that left fans near the stage pleading for one (or two) more songs.
• Capping off a summer of memorable festival appearances (Coachella, Sweetlife, Primavera, Glastonbury and this weekend's Osheaga), Phoenix obeyed every rule in the book of how to close a festival. They started later than competing headliners The Cure, tore through all their best songs ("Lisztomania," "Too Young," "Entertainment!" and even 2004's "Run Run Run"), lead singer Thomas Mars took to the crowd for the Big Single ("1901") and finished 15 minutes early, leaving the crowd wanting more. The band's history of surprise guests like Daft Punk (Madison Square Garden in 2010), R. Kelly (Weekend 1 of Coachella) and Dinosaur Jr. (the group's occasional tourmates this summer) prompted lots of (ultimately thwarted) crowd speculation, but Phoenix reminded the sizeable turnout that the best attraction is the group themselves.
• "Sara Will Survive Lollapalooza!" read one fan's handmade sign during Tegan and Sara's energetic 4pm set on the big Red Bull stage. Chicago, clearly, remembered that the pair's ill-fated 2005 Lolla set had been marred by Sara fainting from heat stroke. There was no such problem this time as a cool breeze blew in off the lake and the sisters incited a sunny dance-party ("Let's see those Chicago moves!" demanded Tegan) with the guitar-led, keys-accented beats of several tunes from their excellent 2013 album, "Heartthrob" (including "Drove Me Wild," "Goodbye, Goodbye" and "Shock to Your System") as well as older tunes like "Hop A Plane" and "Where Does The Good Go." "So this is our Lollapalooza comeback," Tegan declared. Indeed.
• Before a crowd swarmed the Cure's stage at sunset, droves of fans danced with abandon to the sounds of Vampire Weekend on the north stage. The Ivy-League quartet drew one of the largest crowds of the day and delivered an effervescent set of vivacious guitar-pop grooves. Ezra Koening and co. kept the mood light and airy, tearing through crowd-pleasers like "Cousins," "A-Punk," and "Diane Young" from their recent, chart-topping "Modern Vampires of the City" album. The group was a perfect compliment to Irish lads Two Door Cinema Club, who gave fans hand-raising renditions of their own summertime pop jams on the north stage. Though the set consisted of material from their two previously released albums "Tourist History" and "Beacon," the band hinted to Billboard that they will have some new material to offer fans in the coming weeks before kicking off on their fall North American tour.
• Twenty-two year-old rapper Angel Haze has been one of the biggest breakouts of 2013, particularly since her series of performances at SXSW in March. Her Lollapalooza set was on on the lightshow-heavy Perry's stage, which she shared with a live drummer and DJ, and later a bassist and random hot dancing girl on Bo Diddley beat-driven "New York." Her smart, unrelenting rhymes on songs like "No Bueno" and "A Tribe Called Red" showcased a nearly limitless lung capacity and indisputable drive to top the game very soon. "No matter where you come from, no matter who told you you wouldn't be anything," she told the crowd between tunes, "the only way to achieve your dream is to be supreme." (Also, points to Haze in the Lollapalooza round of her beef with Azealia Banks, who canceled her Saturday headlining set at the last minute).
• It took U.K. singer Alex Clare over a year to properly tour the U.S., since the breakout success of soul/dubstep single "Too Close" last spring. But his mid-day set on the Bud Light stage proved to be worth the wait, as the bearded vocalist melded many of Lolla's most-popular genres (folk, EDM, blues and R&B) into one seamless, soaring performance. With booming pipes that suggest a male Adele (a singer with whom Clare nearly toured in 2011), Clare tore through selections from his Diplo and Switch-produced debut "The Lateness Of The Hour," including highlights "Treading Water," "Up All Night," "Tight Rope" and "Where Is The Heart?" His funked-up cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry" also fared well with the crowd, as did a brand-new song "Three Hearts," inspired by the recent birth of his first child. However, he must have had a locksmith on standby, because there were a few surprise key changes that his nimble band rushed to accommodate. Nerves may have gotten to Clare, who noted "This is the biggest festival we've ever played." Still, a triumphant U.S. festival debut for a rising talent.
• In the gathering chill of late afternoon, Grizzly Bear took over the Red Bull main stage ahead of the Cure for an atmospheric hour-long set highlighted with tunes from 2012's "Shields" ("Sun In Your Eyes," "A Simple Answer"). "We've just figured out this is our 101st show in a year in support of this album," singer Ed Droste proudly announced.
• "It's an honor to be playing on the same stage as The Cure," said Wild Nothings' Jack Tatum. "They're one of my favorite bands of all time." That was a sentiment obviously shared by a lot of band's on Sundays bill, as many of the younger groups playing Lolla's multiple stages seem to take their cue from the band's dreamy brand of mood-pop. In addition to Wild Nothings, who soothed their sun-baked crowd with tranquil pop tunes on the main stage, Brooklyn's Diiv hit the Grove stage in the late-afternoon and dished out a jangly collection of ethereal rocker from their debut album "Oshin."
• Despite the diversity of artists at this year's Lollapalooza, it was a sad weekend for metalheads, who got no love outside of Sweden's Ghost BCon Friday and a Sunday afternoon set from Baroness. The fest came at an important time for the Georgia four-piece, however, as the band suffered a serious bus crash less than a year ago in England that resulted in hospitalizations and the departure of two members. Just recently back in action with new personnel, Baroness's set was a breath of fast, sludgy fresh air, careening through songs from their three albums with gratifying, seemingly fully recovered intensity.