On Lollapalooza’s final day, we caught performances by Radkey, Neal Francis, Brittany Howard and Modest Mouse. Read on to see what we thought, and check out our coverage of the preceding days.
Radkey, the literal band of brothers from St. Joseph Missouri, opened the Grubhub stage with a face-melting set of no-frills rock-n-roll. Opening with “Evil Doer” off their LP Delicious Rock Noise, the trio proceeded to rip through a set that could have headlined CBGB – New York City’s storied punk club – in 1978.
In true punk rock fashion, the band raced from one three-minute song to the next and wasted no time on chit chat. Highlights included “Dark Black Makeup,” a slower track by Radkey standards that demonstrates their musical range, and “Seize,” which featured a short but poignant guitar solo from Dee.
At the end of the set, Isaiah launched into multiple scissor kicks ala Eddie Van Halen and writhed around on the floor as if making love to his instrument.
It was a 40-minute snapshot of rock-n-roll at its purest.
At the BMI stage, Neal Francis delivered a throwback set reminiscent of 1970s funk with tinges of Brit Rock and jazz rock. Imagine Allen Toussaint meets the Doors meets Sly and the Family Stone.
“This is our front yard,” Francis, who hails from Oak Park, said in between songs. “I’ve always wanted to play this festival.”
The accomplished pianist (he was already touring Europe with Muddy Waters’ son at 18) played with a six-piece band. A live synth and backup vocals enriched Francis’ sound and distinguished the live performance from his recordings, which emphasize horns and his signature Hammond organ.
Donning a ruffle blouse and aviators, Francis would have looked at home in a smoky New Orleans jazz club 50 years ago. But his homage to another era did not deter listeners – the audience nearly tripled in size throughout his set.
Brittany Howard, the frontwoman of the revivalist rock group Alabama Shakes, belted through a late-afternoon set on the Tito’s stage, conjuring images of Aretha Franklin, Ann Peebles and Gladys Knight with her mind-bending pipes.
After the acclaimed Alabama Shakes announced a hiatus in 2019, Howard released her debut solo LP Jaime. The record draws from a bevy of genres – funk, soul, blues and psychedelic rock being the main players – and provided much of the material for Howard’s Lollapalooza set. Highlights included “He Loves Me,” which Howard concluded with a bluesy guitar solo, and her hit “Stay High,” to which numerous audience members responded by lighting up.
Multiple covers proved to be some of the set’s best moments. Howard performed a groove-inducing rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life” and a bluesed-up version of the Beatles’ “Revolution.”
“Seeing so many people is beautiful. I love all y’all’s energy,” Howard said before ending with her song “History Repeats,” a chilling protest track veiled by funky guitars.
Across the park, Modest Mouse played an underwhelming set saved by their arsenal of great songs. Clad in a red jumpsuit, frontman Isaac Brock seemed a little bored onstage, though he’s never been one for histrionics. Brock started the band with drummer Jeremiah Green and former bassist Eric Judy in 1992, so boredom with their earlier material like “Lampshades on Fire,” which they performed Sunday, is warranted.
The band played tracks from their critically acclaimed LP The Golden Casket, released this year, and pleased fans with timeless favorites like “Missed the Boat,” which Brock sang down the octave at times. The interesting choice to play “Float On” in the middle of the set deemphasized the mega-hit, but didn’t stop droves of passersby from pouring in for the three-and-a-half-minute song.
A panoply of instruments – from a banjo to a bucket – was the set’s unexpected highlight and earned percussionist Ben Massarella an abundance of Twitter shout outs.
Though low-energy, Modest Mouse’s performance was a reminder of the group’s enduring creativity and nearly 30-year catalog of incredible music.
Featured image: Brittany Howard by Ashley Osborn for Lollapalooza