Story by Tony BonyataIt was a stroke of creative thinking when Jane's Addiction's frontman Perry Farrell came up with the idea over a decade ago to gather together some of the most groundbreaking, and often genre-jumping, alternative acts of the day for a tour that would help not only give mouth-to-mouth to the dying American music festival, but also to reinvent it as well.
Photos by Phil Bonyata
The list of performers from the first few Lollapaloozas reads like a who's who of influential alternative rock bands; Jane's Addiction, Nine Inch Nails, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains,Tool, Rage Against The Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Green Day, as well as many others. But as the years proceeded, the quality of the mainstage acts dwindled (Oribital, Devo, Cocteau Twins), resulting in sagging ticket sales. By 1998 organizers decided to scrap the festival.
Now, for whatever reason, Farrell has decided that the time is right again to resurrect both the Lollapalooza festival along with his former band Jane's Addiction.
While the line-up for the tour's recent stop in Milwaukee proved to be a return-to-form - with Jane's Addiction, Audioslave, Incubus and Queens of the Stone Age filling the mainstage bill - the magical alchemy that was present during the first few tours in the early '90s rarely raised it's head for this go-round. The Midway, which once had a more homegrown, organic feel with it's exotic food and unique clothing and jewelry vendors, now seemed more corporate and predictable. Similarly, the show itself felt more like a standard multi-band concert than a true music festival.
The first big attraction of the day was Queens of the Stone Age, who unleashed their intelligent brand of heavy metal [oxymoron, anyone?] filled with Black Sabbath minor chord progressions, howling vocals and explosive rhythms. Led by guitarist / vocalist Josh Homme the band snorted through an aggressive set that included , "Do It Again," "The Sky Is Fallin'," "You Would Know" as well as a spiked version of their breakthrough hit "No One Knows." Their show may have been far from rocket science, but the end results were, quite often, just as pleasingly complex.
Changing the pace a bit, Incubus then served up a passion-soaked set of familiar favorites such as "Warning," "Nice To Know You," "Stellar" and "Make Yourself." Thankfully more than just a pretty face, lead singer Brandon Boyd opened up the flood gates as he spilled his insides out to the audience during many of these powerful numbers delivered with kid gloves. The biggest promise from this California-based band, however, came during one of the songs from their forthcoming album. During "Shot Down" Boyd came unglued with a manic punk delivery over the band's heavy wall of sound, which gave fans a taste of what this band has up their sleeve.
As the tour's fountainhead, Jane's Addiction delivered an energetic set filled, predominately, with older material from their groundbreaking late '80s albums Nothing Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual, such as "Stop!," "Summertime Rolls," "Been Caught Stealing," "Ocean Size" and "Mountain Song." The major problem with this show wasn't in the band's performance (which, with Farrell's intoxicating high-pitched vocals and shiny-happy stage presence along with the feathered-boaed Dave Navarro's incendiary guitar leads, was often exhilarating), but rather their lack of any really new ideas. The couple of newer numbers performed from their forthcoming album Strays were acceptable, but lacked the sexual mojo and dynamic energy of the band's earlier material. In all fairness, however, credit must finally be given to them, as this is the first of three tours, since they first disbanded as a group in '91, with any real new material - making it seem more like an honest creative attempt than merely another quick cash in.
Although not the headliners for the festival, Audioslave proved to be the one act that embodied the magic of the old Lollapalooza while still progressing forward. Spawned from two of the more influential bands from the alternative nation's glory years (singer Chris Cornell from Soundgarden, and guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk from Rage Against The Machine) the band erupted with an amazing set that embraced both the volatile nature of Rage Against The Machine as well as the aggressive rock edge of Soundgarden, while still creating something refreshingly new.
Tearing through numbers from their self-titled debut album, such as "Gasoline," "Set It Off" and "Shadow of the Sun," as well as the more introspective numbers "I Am the Highway" and "Like A Stone" (the latter which Cornell dedicated to the late Jeff Buckley), the band, and Morello in particular, were absolutely on fire. Realizing that the state of hip, underground music now comes from the garage, Audioslave even broke into a pounding version of The White Stripes' current hit "Seven Nation Army" to the delight of the somewhat surprised crowd.
With a new name and newfound energy, Audioslave proved to be the perfect embodiment of what Farrell's resuscitated festival could, and should, have been.
It was once quoted that nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when you have only one. But with Farrell still clutching onto not only Jane's Addiction, but the concept of Lollapalooza as well - both once grand ideas, now past their prime - it's not danger, but rather safety that threatens to plague these ventures.
Queens of the Stoneage
More Lollapapoolza Photos!
Return to Reviews
Return to Menu