Metallica Tops Lollapalooza 2022 Day One
by Anthony Kuzminski
Lollapalooza 2022 - Day One - Thursday July 28, 2022 - Grant Park, Chicago
Lollapalooza 2022 was my return to the festival that I love dearly. I sat out 2021 due to health concerns but for 2022, as I walked back through the gates of Chicago's Grant Park, it felt good to be home. Lollapalooza's four-day festival makes it distinctive and an outlier, especially with a backdrop of the city and the first day did not disappoint. The weather was warm but not excessive and with perfect summer skies it was hard to beat. 2022 is the first year since the pandemic where the festival season is in full bloom with what feels like multiple choices in every state, every weekend from May until October. However, Lollapalooza will always be special not just for its history which has entered its fourth decade, The festival has grown rapidly since finding a permanent home in Chicago in 2005. Lollapalooza took no prisoners on day one with a handful of captivating and scorching performances that may not be topped all weekend.
Emmy Meli 12:30
In late 2021, "I Am Woman"" by Emmy Meli was inescapable on TikTok. With over 20-million views of the song, Meli kicked off Lollapalooza 2022 with a short but effective performance. The California singer has an EP in progress while "I Am Woman" approaches 200-million streams on Spotify alone.
Taking to the festival's biggest stage underscores (also known as Devon Karpf) was engaging with their crowd early on asking for them to put their "hands up". The electronic musician, who hails from San Francisco, kept the momentum of the day going.
Singer-songwriter Mills made his Lollapalooza debut at the great BMI stage, hidden from the bustling festival, the stage is draped with tress and shade leading to a more intimate and earthy warmth. Backed by three musicians, Mills surprised the audience with a cover of Radiohead's "Creep" which featured a sprightly & less haunting spirit, but it was perfect for the moment. He closed his set with "Hollow", which is a great song that transcends across genres and watching the breeze shift his curly hair as he sung his heart out was a wonderful way to spend a summer day in Chicago.
Last Dinosaurs 1:35
The Last Dinosaurs are an Australian indie rock band from Brisbane, Queensland and despite being on the second largest stage at Lollapalooza, they brought an infectious charm to the stage with their brand of indie rock that felt more like a fever dream. They impressed with a tight and succinct set.
Sam Fender 2:20
Sam Fender's 2019 Lollapalooza performance was one of the best I had ever seen at any festival. He was personable and delivered a knockout performance that made me want to see more of him. A performance at Lincoln Hall later that fall was cancelled and then the pandemic took over. This was Fender's first return to Chicago since that stunning performance and it was delayed by more than twenty minutes due to issues with his equipment. Not wanting to delay his already short set any longer, Fender took to the stage with a lone guitar and performed a solo reduction of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark", whose deep brooding lyrics come across as much more personal stripped down than they do with the synthesizer lead. Making the best of a tough situation, Fender gripped hold of the audience at once and didn't let go for the next thirty-minutes. After his solo performance, the band tore through a furious set never relenting even if they were hampered by the technical issues since some instruments & microphones would not work. "The Borders" from his debut album was especially effective as was "The Dying Light" which he performed on piano before the finale of "Seventeen Going Under". Fender's set was a lesson in perseverance where he could have called the performance off, but he charged through it. Most musicians wouldn't risk it, but Fender did & it was one of the best, albeit shortest sets of day one.
I've only seen about a dozen performances in my life where I knew I would follow the artist until the end of time and Sam Fender falls into this category after his 2019 performance. His band delivered a ferocious set fueled by his tales of dead-end sea towns. Raised in North Shields in the northeast of England, Fender writes about those struggles he saw growing up, including toxic masculinity, suicide, and self-interest. Back in 2019 Fender performed a spare ballad called "White Privilege". In less than four-minutes Fender threw the state of the world into a time capsule capturing the horrors and complexities of living during these trying times, the confusion it brings and dread it instills within us. With the lyrics of "'Cause I'm a white male, full of shame / My ancestry is evil, and their evil is still not gone" he is tackling the patriarchy of our society and its associated ills head-on. He doesn't sugar coat it as he repeats "Their evil is still not gone" seven times. Sam Fender is the artist rock n' roll has been waiting for as he synthesizes the terrors of the twenty-first century in an unpretentious manner. His songs evoke the grey abyss of dead ends, the potential of tomorrow all the while anchored by his earnest vocal delivery. The evil of the world may not be gone, and it won't be eradicated any time soon, but I am glad we have Sam Fender along for the ride if for no other reason than to make us all feel a little less alone in this godforsaken world.
The band brought the same energy that was on display at their recent club performance. The band let their voices and instruments soar under the blue skies of Chicago. Last year in the comfortable settings of Schuba's the band delivered a knockout performance and this time they did the same at the biggest festival in Chicago. Inhaler is a quartet hailing from Dublin, Ireland who released their debut album, It Won't Always Be Like This
in July of 2021. Consisting of Elijah Hewson on vocals and guitar, guitarist Josh Jenkinson, bassist Robert Keating and drummer Ryan McMahon, Inhaler is cut from the cloth of post-punk and new wave but on the concert stage, they painted the crowd with big bold swashes of rock n' roll. They have the fight and the desire to not just stand above their peers but to make a sincere connection with their fans. Bands often come and go and never lay it all out on the stage because they're too preoccupied with what others think but Inhaler put it all on the line.
You may know of Inhaler because of lead singer's famous father, but this isn't why I am writing about them; they are an exuberant band, whose music is endearing. As a band, they shine on the concert stage where they reflect the raw aggression of their punk rock godfathers but also the svelte and sheen of their new wave precursors. Inhaler understands that it takes more than one good album to move a crowd; they've heard the album and they show up looking for something more. The band came on strong out of the gate with "It Won't Always Be Like This" which felt like an old friend as the crowd welcomed them with open arms. The band followed this intense opening with "We Have to Move On" where in the shade of the crowd lights began to shimmer and glisten as the band drove themselves and their instruments firmer & faster sending the crowd into overdrive. Shades of Depeche Mode could be heard on "My King Will Be Kind". For a lover of live music, there is nothing more heart wrenching than seeing a performer who has made a great album not deliver. Inhaler went beyond and despite only having one proper album under their belts, they delivered a knockout from the stage like seasoned veterans which is what Inhaler did at Lollapalooza.
Jesse Jo Stark 3:50
Jesse Jo Stark is known within the fashion world, hailing from Los Angeles, she is the goddaughter of Cher and in the shade of the BMI stage she was able to flex her musical muscles and dance moves for the small but very attentive crowd.
Zach Bryan 4:05
Hailing from Oklahoma, Zach Bryan spent a good part of his adult life in the military, for which he was active until recently. He did music as a hobby until it began to take off. Many may associate him with country, but his lyrics and performances have more in line with Jason Isbell than they do the more standard country music artists of the time. His lyrics have an authenticity that the Lollapalooza crowd ate up and despite being more solemn, the crowd stood by in rapt attention as he ran through his ten-song set. Bryan may not yet be a household name, but his performance hinted at bigger things for the singer-songwriter who could very well return to one of the headlining stages in coming years.
Tove Lo 5:00
Hitting the stage in a jean jacket & sequin outfit, the crowd was rapturously ready for Tove Lo. A few songs into the set, she wished the crowd "I hope you are all a little drunk a little high and a little horny". Born in Sweden, she is a truly remarkable pop star and one of the greatest festival performers I have ever seen. Her festival sets are the stuff of legend and is a must-see for any festival you attend. Tove Lo doesn't perform standard pop music, despite having ABBA in her bloodstream, she manages to turn the melodies on their head and create something uniquely her own. She takes her audience to dark corners of her personal life, and she has no filter which is refreshing for a pop artist. Her next album Dirt Femme
will come out on October 14, but that didn't stop her from performing four songs from the album, including the set closing "No One Dies from Love" and "2 Die 4". Tove Lo strutted the stage with supreme confidence. I am not sure I have seen a more assured performer in my life and her ability to create a union with a vast crowd is something to behold. During "Talking Body" she flashed the crowd, but before the song was over, she had the crowd bend down and wait until she had them leap to the air and scream. It was an effective and unforgettable moment. Tove Lo's music teeters between the Saturday night dance halls and Sunday morning prayers and we should consider ourselves lucky to be on the same planet as her.
Billy Strings 6:15
Bluegrass has come to Lollapalooza and the crowd came as well. Taking up half of the field at the far end of the park, the early evening set was more urgent than one would imagine for a handful of string instruments. Strings and his backing musicians performed with earnestness. Strings who grew up in Kentucky has done more than make a name for himself but has found a legion of fans who will come see him from far and wide with the same devotion of many jam bands including the Grateful Dead and Phish. Strings and his band tore through "Red Daisy", "Away from the Mire", "Long Forgotten Dream", "Love & Regret" and "Heartbeat of America" with barely a breath being taken. The performance was both captivating and awe inspiring to watch. Strings has a command of his instrument few can ever hope to reach and credit Lollapalooza for bringing this artist to the largest stage of the festival.
Walking throughout Grant Park on Thursday, one thing was clear; the majority of those who bought ticket were there to see thrash metal legends Metallica. More than ninety percent of artist merchandise worn on Thursday was for Metallica and when "The Ecstasy of Gold" intro tape began, the crowd was ready for Metallica's thrashing assault. Metallica are a rare band who only seem to have their legend and popularity grow with time. Heavy metal is always going to be impactful to disaffected youths, as shown by the latest season of Stranger Things
. The band brought their extended stage to Lollapalooza and started the show on the extension where they performed the first three blistering songs. Opening the set with "Whiplash" noticed was served early that the band would not be going easy on the Chicago crowd. "Creeping Death" and "Enter Sandman" followed, which pushed the crowd into overdrive within fifteen minutes and the band still had another thirteen songs to perform.
Metallica's set covered their entire career including "Dirty Window" from their maligned 2003 album St. Anger, but all joking aside, the song worked incredibly well in the live setting. All four songs from the band's best-selling album, 1991's Metallica (aka "The Black Album) were in the first half of the set, with each one sending the crowd into a tizzy. The latter half of the show was more remarkable with "Fade to Black" being the most touching song of the evening. Lead singer and rhythm guitarist James Hetfield stopped the song before the final part to talk about how the song was about suicide and that everyone knows someone who has been affected by this and he urged the audience to talk to someone if they ever have that feeling. Hetfield himself has come a long way in his personal development and this brief reprieve was a reminder of the fragility of life before the band finished the song with a feverish intensity.
The extended encore featured the legendary metal band at the peak of their powers. As the acoustic into to "Battery" began, the Chicago flag appeared with Metallica's name on it. "Battery" was a merciless performance. James Hetfield is the center point of Metallica as the lead vocalist, but his rhythm guitar playing is what is often unnoticed. As a rhythm guitarist in the world of heavy metal he has no peer and that is not something I say lightly. Every riff is delivered with precise exactitude while Kirk Hammett steals moments with his searing solos. The rhythm section of drummer Lars Ulrich and bassist Robert Trujillo underpinned the performance forging the band forward. The band's first video and Top-40 hit "One" was next with flash bombs and pyrotechnics to set the stage of the anti-war song before the band finished with "Master of Puppets". When Lollapalooza tickets went on sale back in March, no one could have imagined how this song would take on new dimensions thanks to its use on the Netflix show Stranger Things. During the first riff, video of Eddie Munson appeared on the screen, and it catapulted the audience into a different stratosphere. "Master of Puppets" has introduced the band to an entirely new generation of fans and if this final performance of night one is any sign, they will be following Metallica for several years to come. When Metallica headlined Lollapalooza in 1996, many were surprised, but they have proven to be one of the most enduring and vital bands of the last forty years and this new burst of attention will most likely make them one of the most important for decades to come.
More in-depth Lollapalooza coverage will be published all this week
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He has seen over 1,000 concerts in his life, has far too many CD's and has covered Lollapalooza in-depth for seven years. He can be followed on Twitter