Lollapalooza Day 1: Billie Eilish, Karol G, Carly Rae Jepsen, Portugal. The Man deliver powerhouse sets in Chicago

Lollapalooza kicked off Thursday with performances from Carola, NewJeans, Portugal. The Man, Joy Oladokun, Lainey Wilson and more.

SHARE Lollapalooza Day 1: Billie Eilish, Karol G, Carly Rae Jepsen, Portugal. The Man deliver powerhouse sets in Chicago
Karol G performs on the Bud Light stage on day one of Lollapalooza, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023.

Karol G performs on the Bud Light stage on day one of Lollapalooza in Grant Park.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Fresh into a new 10-year contract, Lollapalooza 2023 kicked off Thursday with renewed purpose going into its next decade.

Although much of the setup is the same as in years past, this year brings a new focus on solar-powered energy (highlighted by Billie Eilish partnering with environmental nonprofit REVERB to reduce carbon emissions for her headline set) as well as more international acts rounding out the 170-artist lineup performing across eight stages.

Check back as the Sun-Times reviews sets from Eilish and Karol G, the first Latina to headline the festival.

Here are the highlights of Day 1:

Billie Eilish

The 21-year-old singer has been having a real moment the past few years, ever since her debut album came out in 2019 while she was still a teen. In the past few weeks, she’s been firmly in the headlines again — for her tearjerker song “What Was I Made For?” that appears in the blockbuster “Barbie” movie and for her electrified megahit “Bad Guy” that was just certified Diamond this week. Eilish added both to her set, marking the live debut of the “Barbie” song, and with both tracks providing great examples of her versatile range, from pensive sad songs to total body shakers. The 75-minute set was an all-out marathon session, with Eilish fitting in 24 total numbers, including a powerful drum circle start to “bury a friend,” the early hit “ocean eyes” and a three-part acoustic block that featured Eilish seated alongside her go-to collaborator and talented producer, her brother Finneas O’Connell. she also confirmed the two are working on new material, hopefully meaning a new album — her first since 2021’s “Happier Than Ever” — is imminent. —Selena Fragassi

Billie Eilish Lollapalooza Grant Park Chicago 2023

Billie Eilish closes out day one of Lollapalooza with a marathon set of her hits.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Karol G

Karol G is known for her reggaetón and Latin pop hits, but she takes inspiration from her neighbors to the east in Brazil, too. Later, backed up by an accordion, guitar and tuba all played by women, she wore a cowboy hat and performed her song “Gucci los Paños,” a regional Mexican song about getting over an ex while crying into designer tissues. It’s clear that Karol G is all about girl-power, community and positivity. To add a local touch to “Mañana Será Bonito” (“tomorrow will be beautiful”), she brought out the United Voices Chicago choir. Some fans were moved to tears after the performance. — Ambar Colón

Carly Rae Jepsen

This woman is ethereal. In an outfit that matched the sky, Carly Rae Jepsen proved herself a phenomenal performer. Very few musicians can get on stage, run from end to end, get into the crowd and still sound the same through the entire set. Jepsen set a tone early in her set with “Surrender My Heart,” a song dropped late last year. Floating around the stage like Stevie Nicks, Jepsen gave Chicago the perfect summertime vibes. She couldn’t end her set without “Call Me Maybe” and “Psychedelic Switch.” If I was Lollapalooza, I’d call her back. — Ambar Colón

Carly Rae Jepsen performs on the Bud Light stage on day one of Lollapalooza.

Carly Rae Jepsen performs on the Bud Light stage on day one of Lollapalooza.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Lainey Wilson

Lainey Wilson’s 55-minute set included a commodity that is exceptionally rare at Lollapalooza: a No. 1 country hit. Wilson belted out her breakthrough ballad, “Things a Man Oughta Know,” the 2020 smash that made her a star. Decked out head to toe in various shades of green — with her trademark wide-brimmed hat and bell-bottom, riveted leggings — Wilson brought a hefty dose of rock ’n’ roll energy to stage, punctuating her performance with jumps, kicks, 360-degree spins and fist pumps, plus some shoulder shakes. Overall, Wilson made Music City star power seem right at home in the Windy City. —Bobby Reed

merlin_115029103.jpg

Lainey Wilson performs on Day 1 of Lollapalooza in Grant Park, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Portugal. The Man

Hailing from Wasilla, Alaska, the musicians of Portugal. The Man always take a piece of home with them on the road. On Thursday that included First Nations and Native American tribal members who speak to the crowd as a warmup for the performance. The band pulled from its vast catalog to fill the set, kicking things off with 2011 song “All Your Light,” and a bunch of other more psych-fueled, esoteric numbers that are a far cry from the commercialization of “Feel It Still.” But it was worth the wait and instrumental rabbit hole to get the satisfaction of hearing the hit in the finale, preceded by an entertaining cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” —Selena Fragassi

merlin_115028251.jpg

Portugal. The Man performs on day one of Lollapalooza in Grant Park, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

NewJeans

NewJeans is first Korean pop girl group to play the festival — and the massive sea of fans gathered for the performance may have also been the biggest the festival has pulled for a 5 p.m. set time. “Attention” was a clear favorite of the crowd who immediately waved a range of bunny ephemera in the air (fans call themselves “Bunnies”). Other favorites included “Super Shy” and “ETA,” all of them taking on a ‘90s R&B feel, and, coupled with some of their quasi-fly girl moves, recalled other American girl groups of the era. — Selena Fragassi

merlin_115026999.jpg

NewJeans performs on the T-Mobile stage day one of Lollapalooza, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Anthony Vazquez

Joy Oladokun

Joy Oladokun took the Bud Light Stage Thursday afternoon and owned every minute of it. Introducing one of her most provoking songs, “Sunday,” with its whispered choir hymnal refrain and verses about being “washed clean,” Oladokun talked of growing up in the church, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, and being gay. “It was hard to come to terms about being myself,” she shared, “but I think that’s a very human thing.” Oladokun ended with her latest single, “We’re All Gonna Die,” sans the song’s collaborator Noah Kahan who’s also performing at Lolla today, too. Not that Oladokun needed any more star wattage. — Selena Fragassi

merlin_115026077.jpg

Joy Oladokun performs on day one of Lollapalooza in Grant Park, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

CAROLA

Dressed in a custom Dolce&Gabbana suit, CAROLA rocked the Perry’s Stage with her lively beats. The DJ mixed tons of popular electronic dance music songs, like Calvin Harris’ “Feel So Close” and Daft Punk’s “One More Time.” Her set was definitely geared toward a more American audience — none of the funky Brazilian vibes that usually distinguish her sound made their way to the setlist. When CAROLA makes her way back onstage for her 8 p.m. set on Thursday, maybe she’ll infuse some of those favela funk vibes into her music now that fans know a little bit about her. — Ambar Colon

Carola performs on day one of Lollapalooza in Grant Park.

Carola performs on day one of Lollapalooza in Grant Park.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Bad Neighbors

Thursday started with Rage and Khaos — better known as the two members of the duo Bad Neighbors, who came ready to make some noise with their heavy blend of trap music, hip-hop, punk rock and metal that, from the first notes, drowned out the thumping of the early EDM acts on Perry’s Stage. The duo spent most of the time in the crowd, among a modest throng of people, acting like hype men on steroids on songs like “Bad Romance.” While their look alone grabs attention — full of face tattoos and tinges of horror-core — it’s their sound that is a unique marker, best described as made for Gen Z but sampling from Gen X. — Selena Fragassi

Bad Neighbors performs on the Coinbase stage on Thursday afternoon.

Bad Neighbors performs on the Coinbase stage on Thursday afternoon.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Matt Maltese

When British crooner Matt Maltese took the stage on Thursday afternoon, it would’ve been easy to have mistaken him for Paul McCartney. Not only did his mop top hair provide a throwback visage but his Beatles-que harmonies on early song “You Deserve An Oscar” also were a dead ringer for the other UK greats. Yet Maltese is so much more than a “Yesterday” redux. His billowing songs, full of emotional depth, sardonic wit and dark imagination are some of the best existential songwriting this side of the millennium. It’s the stuff that’s just begging for the right placements in a Wes Anderson flick or Netflix teenage lore, but for now TikTok will do. — Selena Fragassi

Matt Maltese performs on the T-Mobile stage during day one of Lollapalooza.

Matt Maltese performs on the T-Mobile stage during day one of Lollapalooza.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Lesly Reynaga

Lesly Reynaga kicked off the first day of Lollapalooza in Grant Park with a noon set on the Bacardi stage, playing some songs off her latest album, “Valerosa,” for a small crowd that gathered at the front of the stage. Her music is a beautiful blend of regional Mexican and Latin and American pop music, and she borrows elements from each genre to create a sound that is uniquely her own. She sings in ballads about all of the things she experiences in life: being a part of a long line of strong women, being a mom, existing at the intersection of the U.S.-Mexico border. — Ambar Colon

Lesly Reynaga performs on the Bacardi stage during day one of Lollapalooza.

Lesly Reynaga performs on the Bacardi stage during day one of Lollapalooza.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The Latest
“It’s not the first half we wanted, but we just gotta keep showing up, playing hard,” left fielder Andrew Benintendi said.
The White Sox selected left-hander Hagen Smith from Arkansas with the No. 5 pick in the 2024 MLB Draft.
Forecasters say ‘torrential rains’ are likely. Chicago is under a flood watch. The storm could drop 2 to 3 inches of rain and bring winds in excess of 58 mph. Another storm system could move through the region Monday evening.
On the acclaimed NBC police drama, Sikking played Lt. Howard Hunter, uptight head of the Emergency Action Team.
Two men, 25 and 36, were in the 4000 block of West 26th Street about 7:44 p.m. Sunday when a vehicle approached them and someone inside shot at them, police said.