Friday, July 11, 2003
The Lollapalooza traveling road show may have paid lip service to musical diversity, but those in attendance were bombarded by some of the premier ROCK bands in circulation. The distorted guitars and screaming vocals were in full force on Tuesday at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, and with few exceptions, the no-frills formula proved a smashing success.
After a six-year hiatus, the event chose the Kansas City area as its second stop. The audience got to witness some already road-honed groups (nearly all hailing from the Los Angeles area) and one that needed a bit more time in the incubator.
Here are a few of the highlights:
The six-year festival interval probably seemed like no time at all for headliner Jane's Addiction, considering the aggressive rock act hadn't officially played together since breaking up 12 years ago. Lead singer Perry Farrell had originally created Lollapalooza as an elaborate send-off to commemorate Jane's farewell tour. Now he was using it for the opposite reason: to herald the band's return.
Flanked by roller disco-clad vixens dubbed the Lolla Girls, the quartet sonically marked its territory from the first note when launching into the funky opening chords of "Stop," from the 1990 album "Ritual de lo Habitual."
Of the main stage acts, Jane's manifested the most energy by far -- quite a feat considering Farrell is 44 years old. The lithe members all took full advantage of the elaborate metallic stage's platforms and walkways.
However, Farrell gave the impression of being vocally unsure of himself on the newer material, and the title track from the upcoming disc "Strays" was particularly spotty. Fortunately, the band continued to fall back on favorites like the tribal "Ted, Just Admit It ...," with its lyrical mantra of "Sex is violent." Most of the time, Jane's inherent flamboyance was engaging enough.
Also, delivering the rock gospel was Audioslave, whose lineup of ex-Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine members had all played multiple Lollapaloozas of years past. It's hard to name a band that had more in-your-face grooves than Audioslave, whose pummeling anthems were given a dose of eclecticism by guitarist Tom Morello. Never one to just rely on pentatonic noodling, Morello dazzled listeners with his ability to make his solos an experiment in unconventional sounds.
The band broke up the relentless riffs with the ballad "Show Me How to Live," which featured singer Chris Cornell on acoustic guitar. Most surprising was the four-piece's choice to cover the current White Stripes ditty "Seven Nation Army."
Incubus used its first non-headlining slot in nearly two years to full advantage. After selling out the Verizon last September in the middle of a marathon tour for the album "Morning View," the band played just a 45-minute quicky. The brevity of the performance coupled with new blood (bassist Ben Kenney) helped alleviate some of the live malaise that had so obviously infected the versatile rock ensemble.
Lead singer Brandon Boyd seemed to take his sex symbol status less seriously this time through, and considering he was sporting a prepubescent mustache and covered in an upper-body rash, that was a wise move. Nonetheless, the persona shift didn't affect his voice, which is still among the most pure and expressive in rock music.
Although reliant on recent hits such as "Circles" and "Wish You Were Here," the troop debuted back-to-back new tunes that proved fine examples of crafting hummable pop songs from dense, atypical rhythms.
The remarkably inventive Queens of the Stone Age were razor tight during their brief performance. Although hampered by some technical difficulties, the band marched on with hits such as the recent single "No One Knows" and past gems such as "Tension Head." It's always impressive witnessing a group who uses three distinctly different-voiced lead singers. In that respect, Queens are like a black-souled version of Fleetwood Mac.
The pale, tattooed band members did appear noticeably uncomfortable facing down the blistering Kansas sun, which was at its most oppressive during their rush-hour set.
Thankfully, even after six years without a suitable tour vessel, Lollapalooza proved that rock music is still looking at a bright future.