Lollapalooza Day 2 reviews: Dua Lipa delivers a club vibe, Machine Gun Kelly plays up the pop-punk

And check out our takes on Glass Animals, MUNA, Binki, Tinashe, Wet Leg, Mahalia and Taipei Houston at the Grant Park festival.

SHARE Lollapalooza Day 2 reviews: Dua Lipa delivers a club vibe, Machine Gun Kelly plays up the pop-punk
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Dua Lipa performs Friday on day two of Lollapalooza in Grant Park.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

All remnants of Metallica fandom were gone by the start of Day 2 at Lollapalooza. The black T-shirts were replaced by all shades of neon and glitter bombs, worn by a much younger crowd debating which of the two Gen-Z-loved headliners to catch at night:– Dua Lipa or Machine Gun Kelly.

Both bring a flair of Hollywood with them—whether Vanity Fair or TMZ—and they weren’t the only pop-culture figures in Chicago this weekend.

Cast and crew from the HBO Max hit “South Side,” a sitcom filmed and based in Englewood, were seen filming on the Lolla grounds, and star and creator Bashir Salahuddin was overheard saying an upcoming episode will be set at the fest.

Dua Lipa

When Dua Lipa stepped onto the T-Mobile Stage Friday to begin her headlining set, thousands of Lollapalooza fans had already seized just about every square inch of Grant Park perceivable, hoping to catch a glimpse of the English superstar.

Clad in a glistening, 1970s-glamour jumpsuit, Lipa kicked things off with “Physical,” from her 2020 album “Future Nostalgia” — a record filled with stylistic homages to 1970s disco, with a dash of 1980s electronic pop. The album’s release in March 2020, unfortunately, coincided with the start of the pandemic, and it has taken a while for “Future Nostalgia” to really get the full treatment of touring and club play initially perceived for it.

So when Lipa and her four-piece band, four background singers and several dancers welcomed the massive crowd to her “Future Nostalgia” experience Friday night, there was an air of celebration, as fans sang and danced along to songs they’ve gotten to know well by now. It was a show that was heavy on the nostalgia, with Lipa working hard to sing and deliver disco-influenced choreography that turned the park into a club.

Set highlights included “Love Again,” “Levitating” and Cold Heart” — her collaboration with Elton John, who appeared onscreen in a recorded video to perform his part. As she began “Good in Bed,” a fan near the catwalk used a sign to beg for a dedication, and got it.

Between songs, Lipa told the crowd that the moment was particularly special to her because this was her third Lollapalooza, recalling her first stint was on a small stage at a 2 p.m. slot. She thanked her fans for standing by her and supporting her, noting that’s something everyone should do for one another.

“Stand up for women’s rights, stand up against racial injustice, stand up for the LGBTQ community and stand up for each other,” she said, as the crowd cheered enthusiastically in response.

As the fireworks shot off from behind the stage, Lipa marked the end of her set with “Don’t Start Now,” as the crowd danced fervently, capping the end of a show that proved her place as one of pop music’s biggest stars — and deservedly so. — Matt Moore

Machine Gun Kelly

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Machine Gun Kelly played hits from his newest album at Lollapalooza on Friday night.

Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

My Chemical Romance intro music, studded leather jacket, smoking cigarettes on stage, gloating about taking mushrooms. Machine Gun Kelly relied on all the tropes in his closing set at Lollapalooza Friday night to make sure it’s crystal clear he wants to be taken seriously as a punk rocker in his latest incarnation.

Some are still catching on as MGK started his career in hip-hop, morphed into rap rock and then suddenly wanted to be baptized a pop-punk rebel in the past few years. To do so, he pulled in the big guns like Travis Barker, who collaborated with MGK on 2020’s “Tickets to My Downfall” and the new album “Mainstream Sellout,” released in March — with both records making up the meat of his headlining set.

Barker wasn’t present, but MGK did tease early on that he’d be “bringing friends out” and he did so with Iann Dior for “Fake Love Don’t Last” and Glaive on “More Than Life” as well as Avril Lavigne for a crowd singalong of “Bois Lie.”

To be fair, MGK didn’t totally shy away from his former persona, whipping out rapid-fire vocal deliveries on “Floor 13” and “el Diablo” from the “Hotel Diablo” album that were some of the most aggressive of the set, thanks in large part to his dynamically talented backing band. Not the least of which is new guitarist Sophie Lloyd, a YouTube covers phenom who is an absolute shredder live. She and Lavigne often edged on overshadowing the main man.

Wanting to create a “bar vibe” of sharing stories, MGK started off by recalling playing a 1:30 p.m. set the last time he was at Lollapalooza, saying he had “been waiting for this moment a long f- - -ing time.” Though, surprisingly, his headlining debut at the festival was devoid of a big production, especially missing the theatrics of riding in on an aircraft prop like he did at the start of his Mainstream Sellout World Tour in June.

The set was also devoid of the controversy he stirred up at Riot Fest last year, when he took swipes at Slipknot and had fans of the latter throwing their venom on social media. MGK took several pauses to address that “least favorite person” of his, the Internet, advising the largely young crowd to not let it dictate what you like or let it tear at your self-esteem. “If I let the Internet decide my destiny, I would’ve never made this album,” he said before ripping into “Title Track” from “Tickets to My Downfall.”

Yet when witnessing the crazy antics of his life through the lens of TMZ, that messaging can often fall on deaf ears. It’s one of the major gripes about MGK: It’s hard to know when to take him seriously. Whereas other artists evolve, he revolves around fads and subversion. Give it a few years and we’ll see who he shows up as next time at Lolla. —Selena Fragassi

Glass Animals

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Frontman Dave Bayley performs with Glass Animals on Friday at Lollapalooza.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times, Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Dave Bayley had some stats to share with the Lollapalooza crowd on Friday. The producer/frontman extraordinaire of Glass Animals noted that the band had a peek at some analytics recently, which showed that the No. 1 city across the globe where the most people listened to Glass Animals music was none other than Chicago. One look at the massive crowd that formed for the zany U.K. electro-pop troupe (at least two times the size of competing act Don Toliver) would have put any argument to rest. “This may be the biggest crowd we’ve ever played to,” Bayley added, with a beaming smile on his face the entire set.

Still riding high on 2020’s “Heat Waves,” having amassed 359 million YouTube views and contending for the quintessential summer song, the Animals saved their best tune for last. But in the middle were a number of other goodies like “Space Ghost Coast To Coast” from their latest album “Dreamland,” fitting the otherworldly vibe the set gave off. There’s just something about Glass Animals that makes them feel incredibly futuristic. Maybe it’s their kitchen sink sounds, ASMR triggers and wacky tempos, but it all would make for a good soundtrack should extraterrestrials ever take over.

A performance of the song “Pork Soda” was another weird high note — around five years ago, the song’s lyric “pineapples in my head” exploded into some kind of bizarre flash mob where fans would bring in ample amounts of the fruit to Glass Animals shows. So much so that previous appearances at Reading & Leeds Festivals banned the foodstuff. Clearly Lolla didn’t take it as too much of a threat as the spiky mascot was fully present on Friday — the band even giving out a trophy one like a final rose to a lucky fan in the crowd. Yet, for Bayley, who made comments several times in the set, the weirdest thing was seeing constant drones flying over the audience, go figure. —Selena Fragassi

MUNA

Katie Gavin of Muna pulled out all the stops for their set on Friday.

Katie Gavin pulled out all the stops for Muna’s Lollapalooza set on Friday.

Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

In addition to hearing infectious melodies and witnessing a captivating stage presence from a band in its element, one of the best parts about seeing MUNA live is the band’s legion of loyal fans.

For their second appearance at Lollapalooza (their first dating back to 2016), Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson brought their blend of tender electro-indie-pop to the Discord Stage with a setlist composed primarily of songs off their new self-titled album.

The Los Angeles-based band started the set with a bang, kicking into the shimmering pop track “What I Want,” as lead vocalist Katie Gavin belted each line to a crowd that sang the words right back to her. Naomi McPherson smiled while holding it down on keys and background vocals, and guitarist Josette Maskin jumped across the stage with each strum, providing occasional background vocals and imploring the crowd to join in.

Power pop anthems “Solid” and “No Idea,” also standouts, gave fans high-energy choruses that many sang along to, while others snuggled and smooched partners or danced, eyes closed in bliss, with their friends.

The show served as a kind of homecoming for Gavin, who grew up in north suburban Evanston before moving to California. In between songs, she reminisced about the many times she had attended Lollapalooza, including in 2009, when she hoisted her sister on her shoulders to sing along to The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside.” The band then tore into a cover that sent the crowd into a frenzied jumble of joy, jumping and singing so loud that Gavin’s vocals were occasionally drowned out.

“Thank you for letting us be ourselves,” Maskin told the crowd before the band ended with “Silk Chiffon.” Fans clapped, jumped and passionately sang their hearts out to one of the year’s most beautiful lovesongs. — Matt Moore

Binki

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Binki performs on Friday, day two of Lollapalooza in Grant Park.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Binki was right where he belonged at Lollapalooza Friday night, performing before Glass Animals, a flashback to the two genre smashers going out on tour together last fall. Binki has been a great example of the DIY hustle, steadfastly growing his following in a grassroots way since releasing his head-jerking single “heybb” in 2019.

The attention that track gained and the pragmatic way the artist, born Baraka Ongeri, learned to manipulate streaming and video services led to indie tastemakers Fader taking notice and signing Binki to their own homegrown label. They released his EP “Motor Function” last summer.

Wrapping up his set with “heybb” was the ideal example of his unique style, fusing hip-hop, electro and indie music with hints of Bloc Party, Outkast and Tyler, The Creator, among others. Then there was the surprise cover on acoustic guitar of the Cranberries’ “Linger” that kept everyone on their toes while Binki continued to subvert any try at artistic classification.

“That’s a new one I just wrote,” he joked with the crowd. The former theater major kept his deadpan wit throughout the set, asking for a moment of prayer for Joe Biden, then quipping, “Never mind, he’s fine,” likely a commentary on POTUS’ recent COVID infection. Another example came during his track “Wiggle” when he demoed for the audience as he sang, “Why are you all standing around when you could be moving your hips”?

At times, Binki’s one-man performance was drowned by the large stage, which could have been bolstered by a live band rather than accompanying tracks, with the artist at one point even beseeching his sound team to “unwarp” the track, complaining the BPMs were off. By the set’s end, Binki promised to be back soon, hopefully fleshing out some of the new tracks he played at Lolla. —Selena Fragassi

Tinashe

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Tinashe played an energetic set at Lollapalooza on Friday.

Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

It has become something of a cliche when talking about R&B artist Tinashe to deem her underrated. Yet watching her use just about every inch of the medium-sized Coinbase stage to deliver a performance stacked with intricate choreography, solid vocals and a costume change to a crowd packed in to see her, it’s difficult to find another word to describe her.

Tinashe gave her fans, and those maybe unfamiliar with her work, a tight show with extra emphasis added to the harmonies and samples of her backing tracks from a drummer and guitarist who joined her onstage, as well as four backup dancers. It was no doubt a set worthy of a larger stage, or at least a primetime slot.

The Los Angeles-based performer kicked off her set with her breakout single, “2 On,” a song that, even 8 years after its release, pumped up the crowd and beckoned passersby familiar with the massive hit to make their way to the stage. Tinashe then smoothly transitioned into another song from her debut album “Aquarius” — 2014’s “All Hands on Deck.” She belted and led her dancers through a series of combos, showing that she’s always been here, holding her own as a skilled performer who can balance vocals and choreography so well.

Between songs, Tinashe shared that this performance was special for a number of reasons — namely because it was her first Lollapalooza and that her family was there, including her grandma who was watching from the side of the stage.

Other standout moments included 2019’s “The Worst In Me,” a collaboration with producer Kaytranada, whose beats never fail to keep the crowd bopping, and “All My Friends,” a 2015 collaboration with Snakeships and Chance the Rapper, who unfortunately did not make an appearance.

Tinashe ended her set on a high note with “Bouncin” which got the crowd moving along with her as she and her dancers gave one last taste of showstopping choreography. — Matt Moore

Wet Leg

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Hester Chambers of Wet Leg performs Friday at Lollapalooza.

Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

Lollapalooza marks the U.S. festival debut for Wet Leg, as singer Rhian Teasdale shared with the tightly packed audience gathered at the Discord Stage, all clamoring to catch one of the buzziest bands of the past few years (many with handwritten signs like you’d see at a stadium show). Yet, the British post-punkers already come off like true seasoned pros.

Their quick acclimation is on brand for the act that has catapulted to both indie and mainstream infamy in just the past year — quite a feat considering the weight of the pandemic and every artist trying to release something at the same time to recoup lost income. Though, with catchy bangers like “Chaise Longue” and a no-frills, no-f- - -s attitude delivered by two women who eschew any pre-conceived standards, it makes sense.

Wet Leg is technically a two-piece led by Teasdale and Hester Chambers, but they pad out their live performances with a few additional musicians. One of them, backup guitarist/vocalist and synth player Josh Mobaraki, was missing for this set, prompting Teasdale to dedicate the song “Ur Mum” to him and asking the crowd to scream out his name in unison during a break in the track.

Even without the mic, Teasdale’s voice was the loudest, with the whole set showing off her versatility as a vocalist. She wailed, she screamed, she whispered, she even sort of yodeled at one point while Chambers and troupe provided a steady beat for her to volley with on hits “Chaise Longue” and “Wet Dream.”

With the outdoor environment, Wet Leg’s sound at times felt washed out. For a true taste of their nuances, Friday night’s after show at the intimate confines of Empty Bottle will be a better testament to their style that fuses riot grrrl, punk and Britpop, and already has many calling their eponymous album, released in April, one of the best of the year. — Selena Fragassi

Mahalia

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Mahalia performs Friday afternoon on day two of Lollapalooza in Grant Park.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

British R&B star Mahalia and her three-piece band kicked things off with her breakthrough single, 2017’s “Sober.” The song served as a kind of a warm greeting for her longtime fans — and an introduction for any newcomers wandering off Jackson Drive, still waking up or working through a hangover from Lollapalooza day one.

After concluding the second song, “Do Not Disturb,” from her 2019 album “Love and Compromise,” Mahalia shared that she and her band were a bit tired themselves after traveling from the U.K. The singer-songwriter said that it was their first time in the states since the start of COVID-19 and that she was feeling “a bit emotional and nervous.”

But they shook off the jetlag and delivered a smooth set. Flanked by a drummer, guitarist and bassist who juggled duties on the keys, the singer and her crew gave fully fleshed-out interpretations of her songs that often veered into neo-soul territory. It was an exciting, slight variation from her recordings and a treat for those present for her midday set.

Mahalia pays several homages to R&B and hip hop legacies throughout her growing discography. You could hear it Friday on set highlights like “In The Club,” which cleverly nods to 50 Cent’s 2003 hit, and “What You Did,” a song that works in both Cam’ron’s 2002 banger “Oh Boy” while resurfacing the emotional essence of that song’s sample, Rose Royce’s 1976 classic “I’m Going Down.”

Devoid of background singers — a staple for many singers’ live sets, especially on a large festival scale — Mahalia’s voice was front and center. Her low-key, slightly raspy, emotion-tinged and buttery vocals shined on songs like her single from February “Letter to Ur Ex.” Moments when she did belt — like the vocal runs she did on “I Wish I Missed My Ex” and “Simmer” — were particularly compelling. — Matt Moore

Taipei Houston

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Metal band Taipei Houston played Lollapalooza at the BMI stage on Friday.

Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

If there was a common theme for Friday’s music lineup at Lollapalooza, it would be a showcase for the raw power of two-person rock bands. Before Wet Leg and Royal Blood in later sets came Taipei Houston, laying out a dual dynamic. The act features 23-year-old Myles Ulrich on drums and 21-year-old Layne Ulrich on super distorted bass and vocals, the effect making up for any lack of instrumentation that additional personnel might provide. Though, Myles also plays guitar and wrote several of the riffs, as Layne told the modest crowd gathered for the early set at the BMI Stage.

If those names sound familiar, it’s because Myles and Layne are the sons of Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, who, just hours before, had closed out Night One’s headlining spot and watched his boys open for Idles at Metro. But, Taipei Houston is no copycat rip-off. In fact, if you hadn’t looked up the band prior, you probably wouldn’t know they were of famous progeny (just like Thursday’s act Inhaler, featuring singer Elijah Hewson, Bono’s kid). Nor did Lars show up to crash the set, giving his kids space. Rather than rest on the family laurels, it would seem the Ulrichs are keen to use their unparalleled music education to create something unique to them.

For Taipei Houston, that’s a mixed bag of analog influences ranging from ’90s grunge and noise rock to garage/blues rock (with a couple songs sounding an awful lot like the tightened fuzz and shrieky vocals of The White Stripes). The brothers also just tapped a tour opening for The Melvins, a seminal no-boundaries band they’ve clearly been studying based on the little bits they’ve offered so far at this early stage. Only one song has been released, “As the Sun Sets,” which came out just this week and opened the set — but it’s clear Taipei Houston’s noisemaking is just getting started. —Selena Fragassi

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