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Lollapalooza 2015's Top 10 Performances: How Did A$AP Rocky, Paul McCartney & More Stack Up?

Josh Brasted/FilmMagic
ASAP Rocky performs on stage at the 2015 Lollapalooza music festival at Grant Park on Aug. 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. 

From July 31 to Aug. 2 Lollapalooza's 2015 edition brought a varied bill of rock, dance, hip-hop, pop, and more to Chicago's Grant Park. After a weekend on the scene, Billboard's writers pick the 10 best sets.

10. Of Monsters and Men

Five-member Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men joined the Lollapalooza lineup for the second time since 2012. Although their performance was pushed later due to Sunday's severe weather warnings, the band rocked out with hits taken mostly from their first album, My Head Is An Animal. The entire set was a sing-along, especially with popular tunes "Little Talks," "Crystals" and "Dirty Paws." Lead vocalist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir swapped out multiple instruments throughout the windy, hour-long performance, and wasn't afraid to beat on the drums in the back while co-singer and guitarist Ragnar "Raggi" Þórhallsson entertained the crowd.

9. Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney played just the right amount of Beatles and Wings hits during his headlining set on Friday night. He also briefly sang "FourFiveSeconds," making this the first time performing the song since the 2015 Grammys and the very first time on his own. A highlight of the night was when McCartney brought out Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard out for the Beatles' "Get Back," where she sang lead on the second verse of the hit song and strummed her guitar. A crowd favorite was "Hey Jude," where fans held up signs saying "Na" throughout the nearly 8-minute song as they screamed and clapped along to McCartney rocking out on a rainbow piano.

8. Kygo

While his set was truncated due to a severe thunderstorm, Kygo delivered a short but sweet show mostly comprised of his strongest material. Considering it was nearly scrapped from the start, the Norwegian tropical house producer truly meant it when he announced, "I'm very happy to be here" right before opening with his viral remix of Ed Sheeran's "I See Fire." Following highlights like his "Sexual Healing" remix and second single "Stole the Show," he managed to squeeze in a live rendition of "Firestone" with Aussie vocalist Conrad before the festival was shut down, dazzling his animated crowd with fireworks and onstage sparklers that flared in time with his upbeat melodic leads.

Lollapalooza 2015 Recaps: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

7. Alabama Shakes

Quick trivia question: Who "opened" on the Samsung Galaxy stage for Paul McCartney Friday at Lolla? Alabama Shakes. One of the most acclaimed bands in recent years, the Brittany Howard-led dynamos of blues and rock have already established themselves as a musical powerhouse. But when opening for McCartney, whose fans had been camped out all afternoon, they were possibly playing for an audience that was unfamiliar with Alabama Shakes. Yeah, not a problem when you perform with so much passion you knock your own glasses off and blow out the speakers. On songs like "Don't Wanna Fight" and the closing "Gimme Your Love," Howard and mates again reminded everyone, new and old fans, that they are bona fide rock stars. 

6. Florence + the Machine

First it looked like Florence + the Machine would play a shortened set. Then, weather permitting, it looked like Welch would get to play her full hour and a half after all. But as the lightning show over the Chicago skyline intensified, the Sunday night set came to a sudden close at 10 p.m. and fans headed for the exits. Still, the fest-closing performance was classic Florence. Crazed barefoot sprints across the stage during set opener "What the Water Gave Me" were only a prelude of things to come; she ventured almost a hundred yards out into the crowd during "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" and leaned into an adoring male fan's embrace -- within inches of kissing him -- during "What Kind of Man," both times with security trailing hopelessly behind. Just after getting the evacuation news, she squeezed in "Dog Days Are Over" to close out Lollapalooza 2015 in grand fashion. 

Metallica Delivers Career-Spanning Performance at Lollapalooza

5. Sturgill Simpson

Nashville singer/songwriter Sturgill Simpson, a 38-year-old country artist just tasting mainstream success, might seem like a weird fit at Lolla. Regardless, he and his band delivered a stunning cover of When In Rome's '80s hit "The Promise," and their shit-kicking bluegrass electric guitars rang throughout the Chicago skyline during a smoldering 40-minute set. So before asking if Simpson was out of place at Lolla, ask if Waylon Jennings would've been welcomed on the '90s touring version of Lolla. The answer is "hell yes!" and with Simpson's real tales and authentic country sound, he proved he belonged on this version with a vengeance.

4. Metallica

At a festival where electronic music has gained a greater foothold over the years, it was refreshing to see the thrash metal veterans rock out as hard as they did for an appreciative audience. Opting for an aggressive setlist marked by fan favorites like "Master of Puppets," "One," and "Sanitarium," Metallica showed that they haven't skipped a beat in their elder years. The Bay Area band left their devoted fan base near speechless with a hard-hitting series of encores -- including covers of "Whiskey in the Jar" and "Am I Evil," and finishing strong with "Nothing Else Matters" and "Enter Sandman."

Lollapalooza 2015: Backstage Portraits!

3. Brand New 

Long Island cult heroes Brand New come out swinging for their Saturday night set, with their new single "Mene" getting their Sprint Stage crowd into a frenzy. They haven't released a studio album since 2009, but their old material held a gripping presence. "Sic Transit Gloria (Glory Fades)" sounded absolutely ferocious, with a second drummer-percussionist added to Brand New's attack. The stop-start fury of "You Won't Know" was another highlight, and when the band kicks out something from its first album, old timers know how "Seventy Times 7" is going to slay. Brand New revved anticipation for their still-forthcoming new LP and made a case for more punk rock at Lollapalooza, alongside the need for more hip-hop.

 

2. Kaskade

After drawing eye-popping crowds at Coachella and EDC Las Vegas, it was fitting that the Northbrook native would have the chance to play his fourth Lollapalooza at the peak of his powers. The Perry's stage played host to an emotional homecoming where Kaskade reflected on his journey from the Chicago suburbs to the forefront of dance music, treating enthusiastic attendees to a special set that represented the depth and breadth of his catalog. With his mom and wife in attendance, he dedicated his finale (Caspa's remix of his classic collab with deadmau5 "I Remember") to "the city that inspired [him] and started [him] on [his] career."

1. A$AP Rocky

Judging by A$AP Rocky's Sunday night performance, Lolla '15 could have used a few more big-name rappers. Flacko's set got a sprawling main stage crowd into a frenzy, whether it was "Fuckin' Problems," his "Shabba" verse, or his DJ dropping Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which he rocked out to just as hard alongside guest Vic Mensa. Vic was onstage for a rendition of his Kanye West collaboration "U Made," which was among the weekend's biggest special guess performances. And while partying like a cowboy or a rock star, Rocky mixed some sincerity into the set, too: "We even had a historic rap battle a week ago... I love the fact that I'm a part of hip-hop right now."

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