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?uestlove of The Roots

BEN HARPER AND THE INNOCENT CRIMINALS

Lollapalooza, Bud Light stage
Friday, Aug. 3, 2007

Setlist:
Black Rain/Inner City Blues
With My Own Two Hands
Burn One Down
Ground On Down
Please Bleed
In the Colors
Say You Will
Diamonds on the Inside
Forgiven
Masters of War (with Eddie Vedder)
Better Way

THE ROOTS

Lollapalooza, Bud Light stage
Saturday, Aug. 4, 2007

Setlist:
Web
Here I Come
Star
Mellow My Man
Love of My Life
You Got Me
The Seed 2.0
I Can’t Understand It

 


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Windy City Sounds: Marching through Lollapalooza 2007 (cont.)

Engaging in a not so quiet anticipation, I warned everyone of what was to come, and to be ready for something half past epic to happen. When the lights finally went out, the clearly Pearl Jam biased crowd busted over in excitement for the arrival of Ben Harper, a great ally of that band whom many a fan were first exposed to in the mid-90s when he would routinely open for the band.

What happened next was well beyond everyone’s expectations. Mr. Harper and his Criminals busted out an approximately 10 minute, jammed-out version of “Black Rain,” featuring an astonishing bass jam by Juan Nelson, a tagged cover of “Inner City Blues” (originally by Marvin Gaye), and some real killer howling by Ben. By the five-minute mark, I had forgotten that the Black Keys even played. After 10 minutes, I called it the set of the festival … “but hold your horses,” I thought, “there’s still 80 minutes of this set left!” What followed was another 10-minute jam, this time to the reggae vibe of “With My Own Two Hands.” The band concluded the last few minutes in complete rock-out mode, with Ben leading a sea of hands to the groove of the band, and howling “with our own two hands!” into the microphone in a manner that only Ben Harper can capture.

Next up was Leon Mobley on percussion and a smoked out rendition of “Burn One Down” — with that many joints lit, you had no choice but to feel the contact high —followed by a completely rocked-out “Ground On Down” and “Please Bleed.” Following this were two songs off his upcoming album, Lifeline, called “In the Colors” and “Say You Will,” an old school soul/Motown style number. The band played a few more before the unthinkable and truly predictable occurred (you may ask how something unthinkable could possibly be completely predictable, but rest assured, it really was just that).

Ben Harper called out for his guest performer, and from stage right appeared Eddie Vedder to the sounds of an elated crowd chanting “Eddie! Eddie!” Ben, Eddie and the band jumped right into Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” with an earth rattling vocal throw down as Vedder and Harper one-upped each other from verse to verse. The only comparable experience to this moment could have been watching Michael Jordan on a basketball floor in his prime, or even watching Lincoln give one of his many famous addresses. This was pure, epic greatness. Two artists, great friends even, battling it out on stage like a winner-take-all Street Fighter duel between two young teenagers. Both were equally up to task, and the ultimate winners were clearly those of us who chose to hang around the Bud Light stage rather than see the light show across the way.

The night ended with a blistering “Better Way,” and it was now on to friends of friends apartments, their gigantic screen TV, and, ultimately, Rock Bottom to discuss what just happened, and what was still to come. I had gotten my money’s worth already, and yet there were two days to go.


SATURDAY, AUG. 4

Day Two started out feeling like the ultimate hangover day. We were exhausted from all the energy spent the night before, and what’s worse, we were clearly dragging our collective rear ends after a strong helping of tasty cinnamon buns and breakfast burritos from the late morning. Arriving somewhere in the early afternoon with literally no agenda, we headed straight for the shaded oasis of Kidzapalooza, the children’s stage that was a wonder of its own.

At Kidzapalooza, children at the festival were treated to everything from rock bands playing kids’ songs in their best punk rock form to guitar lessons from Satellite Party’s Peter DiStefano to break-dancing lessons and hip hop workshops. The area also included various other treats that kids and adults alike would indulge in, specifically the lemonade stand raising money for cancer research. The artists would also stop by, scheduled and unscheduled, for quick acoustic sets tailor-made for the kids.

After a few minutes there, I wandered over in curiosity of Ryan Shaw’s set, since he had been advertised the day before as having an official after-party gig at the House of Blues Saturday night. I only stayed for a song, mostly because my mood didn’t fit the occasion, but Shaw seemed extremely energetic in that old school R&B way, and I wish I could have stuck around for more. But alas, I wanted some rock, so I headed over to the MySpace stage for Tapes N’ Tapes. Sadly, that lasted three songs, and I was so bored I decided to camp out at the Bud Light stage for Stephen Marley’s set.

Marley’s set started well enough, with Bob Marley covers left and right, but approximately three songs in I got a text from Rick telling me to head over to Kidzapalooza for a special solo set from Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Patti Smith. I abandoned Marley immediately. Jim James then arrived, with a fresh buzz cut (the enormous beard remains), and played a number of kids’ songs on banjo, including the Chipmunks Christmas Song. While waiting for Perry Farrell to come and give an inclusive yet somehow frightening speech, the guitarist — an incredibly talented 19-year-old female — from the School of Rock Allstars that were teaching the kids about music and being in a band came up and did a few songs. She brought the house down with a few excellent covers, and gave way to Perry and his speech about Lollapalooza being kid and environmentally friendly. He then introduced Patti Smith, who also threw in a few of her quieter songs for the enjoyment of the children.

After a few songs from Patti Smith, I thought it best to head on back to the Bud Light stage for my most anticipated act of the day, the Roots. I had seen them twice before, and I knew that they come to take the stage down single-handedly with their amazing organic hip hop, complete with seemingly random cover medleys, alternate versions of hit songs, and an all around unpredictable atmosphere measuring up to the heydays of the freestyle jazz era.

Their set did not disappoint. They started with a number of newer songs from The Tipping Point, but then reached back to their older days. About halfway into the set, a bass jam nearly took the place down, as the crowd was treated to what sounded like Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones) on acid, followed by a shredding guitar solo that took the place completely apart like Jimi Hendrix on speed. Those jams lead into a medley featuring everything from Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” to Talib Kweli’s “Get By” and an assortment of 80s rap and 90s pop covers. The energy refused to let up from there, with The Roots breaking into their hit “The Seed 2.0,” lifting the crowd even further into a frenzy that eventually boiled into hysteria during the 15-minute closing “I Can’t Understand It,” a James Brown-level freakout that featured band members freezing in place and stop/starting on a dime to the crowd’s give and take with Black Thought. The euphoria of the crowd was ultimately symbolized by witnessing people beginning to crowd surf and altogether go crazy, and upon completion of the set, they instantly became the talk of the Lollapalooza crowd. They had simply raised the bar on Saturday’s festivities, and it would be hard for anyone to top it the rest of the way.

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