Like the first day of Lollapalooza 2023, Day Two featured competing headliners that vied for some 100,000+ people’s attention. On one side was the 1975, whose frontman Matty Healy has been making headlines, and on the other was one of the greatest rappers of all time, Kendrick Lamar.
Unlike Thursday, where it felt like every person was there to see Billie Eilish, Friday’s finales were more equally divided. So while Lamar headlined the bigger end of the park, both artists’ sides were comfortably packed at set time.
Of course, there was plenty more to catch before the finale, including Sudan Archives, Beabadoobee, Tems, Sabrina Carpenter, and many more. Here’s a roundup of some of the best acts we caught on Friday.
Kendrick Lamar’s Humble Production Resonates
Kendrick Lamar eschewed typical big headlining production adornment: instead, words, emotion, cadence, and intentionality powerfully conveyed what was big and necessary. Lamar’s minimalist approach let his stories be the focus — and meticulously timed dancers augmented the Compton rapper’s messages that explore everything from race, class, and equality to love and loss, and meditations on freedom of speech, judgment, and self-reflection, among other heady subjects. During “Money Trees,” the dance crew provided the visualization of his verses, one skateboarded, another mopped the stage floor, others looked to be scheming amongst one another.
Lamar performed songs from his latest LP, last year’s Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers including “N95,” and also delivered fan favorites from throughout his career. It was a decade ago that the rapper last performed at Lollapalooza, when he was riding high on his critically acclaimed 2012 album Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City and the packed crowd were treated to tracks from that era, including “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” where on his command of “louder” the crowd brought up the intensity and volume as they sang along. Other fan shout-alongs came by way of his Pulitzer Prize-winning Damn.’s “Humble” and “DNA” and To Pimp a Butterfly’s “King Kunta” and the hopeful “Alright” helped cap off the night on an inspiring note. –A.L.
The 1975 Return to Form When Matty Healy Sidesteps Controversy
The first thing Matty Healy said between songs during the 1975’s headlining set — “Well, well, well…” — could’ve doubled as his statement in response to all of the headlines he’s made this past year. The singer-guitarist and infamously loose-lipped frontman was nothing but polished charm onstage, though, singing his way through the chipper vocal refrains of “Chocolate” and “Love It If We Made It.” The 1975’s brand of aesthetics-first music played smoothly to close out the night, from their Eighties-indebted synth and hammy saxophone to the black-and-white-only camerawork that lended the band some authenticity. Mixed in was Healy’s now-trademark excursion into the crowd, which included an unlikely hug with Blink-182’s Tom DeLonge.
When Healy started talking about causing some drama, a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of alcohol in the other, the woman next to me buried her face in her hands: “Oh no, oh no. Matty, please, no.” She let out an exhale once he continued, though. “We’re unified by the things we don’t like, and yet look, there’s hundreds of thousands of people unified by what they do like!” he said, gesturing to the crowd. It seemed Healy finally learned to do what a large swath of fans were pleading for at this point in the band’s career: shut up and play the hits. –N.C.
Hemlocke Springs Is the Weirdo That Pop Needs Right Now
Hemlocke Springs only used half of her allotted 40-minute set time, but fans heard every song from her catalog — all five of them — plus a cover of the Cardigans’ “Lovefool.” Her second performance ever was more than just her viral TikTok hit “Girlfriend,” though. The left-field pop star follows in the footsteps of Kate Bush and Marina Diamandis by building her songs with melodramatic vocal leaps that sound like improvisational dance moves. She’s spunky and unpredictable, a 24-year-old who’s more interested in making herself dance than anyone else, and that drew out the best from her sizable crowd. As she twirled in circles while donning Strawberry Shortcake cosplay, Hemlocke Springs let out hiccup laughs and shrieks of delight, the combination giving her something every pop star craves: that nuanced blend of envy and relatability that keeps fans pining for more. –N.C.
Japanese Rockers Band-Maid Put Guitar Center Showoffs to Shame
There’s a pun to be made about how much Band-Maid ripped, but the Japanese group goes even harder than that. Fluctuating between hard rock, aughts nu-metal, and pop rock, each member of the quintet is a virtuoso in her own right with more than a decade of practice in Band-Maid alone. They lured curious onlookers into the fold when highlights like “Domination” and “Don’t You Tell Me” got huge reactions from the crowd, but it was the bass solo-versus-guitar solo duels mid-song that got the biggest cheers. This is what those guys in Guitar Center think their ridiculous riffing sounds like. Turns out it’s done best, and most effortlessly, by women in black-and-white maid dresses and frilly hair-pieces as they smile ear to ear. –N.C.
Sudan Archives Fiddles for the Future
Sudan Archives — who is one of Rolling Stone’s Future of Music picks — plucked, bowed, and wielded her violin at times like a conductor pointing their baton for emphasis during her impressive debut Lollapalooza performance. The instrument flavored her blend of pop, R&B, hip-hop, electronic forays, which included “OMG Britt” and closer “Homesick” from her breakout album Natural Brown Prom Queen. The latter found her dizzily spinning alongside the woozy melody she played. Another highlight was “NBPQ (Topless).” Sudan, whose confident command of the stage belied this being her first time at the fest, turned the title track’s “’Cause I’m not average” chorus into an audience-wide, empowering call-and-response. –A.L.
Beabadoobee Becomes the Role Model She Wanted to Be
Last year, Bea Kristi — the Filipino-English musician behind Beabadoobee—said she wanted “to be that person I really needed when I was growing up.” Women of color such as herself are made to feel unheard and undervalued. Onstage, Beabadoobee’s indie rock guitar solos and bright vocal harmonies absorbed the attention, but, unexpectedly, the most striking part of her set was a pair of new songs. Quiet and dream-like, they were more in line with Beatopia‘s bossa nova-esque “The Perfect Pair” or “See You Soon,” which she wisely followed them up with. Those confessional moments earned the respectful silence of her audience, a pact of sorts that implied gratitude for the sensation of being seen. “I don’t really expect this everytime I come to America,” Kristi said with a flattered grin. “So, thanks.” –N.C.
Sabrina Carpenter Talks ‘The Eras’ Tour
Sabrina Carpenter pregamed joining Taylor Swift’s Mexico and South American legs of the Eras Tour later this month by swinging through Grant Park first. The pop princess brought the heat onstage to mirror the strong Midwest sun, delighting fans with set list staples like “Looking at Me,” Vicious,” and of course, “Nonsense” and its dirty freestyle outro. Carpenter tells Rolling Stone she’s excited about the new experience of bringing her set to stadiums while opening for Swift. “Watching her is a masterclass in itself,” Carpenter says about Swift backstage before her Lolla set. “She’s been texting me… I feel a lot more comfortable that I’m going into a situation with someone who I admire so much and I’m just going to study.” She also revealed her three favorite Swift projects “right now.” –W.A.
Tems’ Voice Is the Real Deal
Listening to Tems sing on record and hearing her live are wildly different experiences. On her two EPs, the Grammy-winning Nigerian singer uses a measured, almost-cautious tone that peers around corners before taking a step; during her midday set, her voice soared with a freeing, wistful delivery that goes cliff diving for the calming effect of the wind. Of course this is who Rihanna bows down to and Beyoncé taps for a feature. Pin it on the nature of Afrobeats, but Tems radiated with contentedness as she cooed about self-respect during “Crazy Tings” and “Try Me.” By the time she tried to teach the crowd the lyrics to her breakout collaboration with Wizkid, “Essence,” she was humbled to find they were already singing along — thanks, no doubt, to a voice that silken. –N.C.
Foals Remind Us Why They Keep Getting Invited Back
More than 15 years into their career, Foals still know how to build the type of tension that induces goosebumps. The British rock band steadily transformed since their early math-rock days, wading into a funk-synth era that never abandoned their rhythm section’s ability to make each beat danceable. Their set list made that evolution obvious, reaching into everything from 2008’s Antidotes to last year’s Life Is Yours. “Are you up for some rock & roll tunes?” yelled singer-guitarist Yannis Philippakis. Whether everyone crouched on the ground to spring upwards in a human wave for “Spanish Sahara” or hoisted Philippakis towards the sky as he screamed “What Went Down,” the answer was a resounding yes for their fourth Lollapalooza performance and “last show in the U.S. for quite a while.” – N.C.
Diesel Fuels the EDM Crowd
Perry’s stage is the location for all things EDM at the festival, drawing a typically young crowd. And NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal’s Diesel return to that stage was no different (he last performed at Lolla in 2019) — though there were perhaps more folks wearing sports jerseys and people who were alive when he was first drafted in 1992. His return to Lolla as the literal biggest DJ in the world, standing at 7-feet, 1-inch, was a curiosity draw. Kids ran in and out of the crowd to get a quick peek at the B-ball legend in action, while others stuck it out in the heat as he spun dubstep punctuated by samples from artists including the White Stripes ( “Seven Nation Army”) and Rick Ross (“Hustlin’”). –A.L.
TiaCorine Keeps It Short But Sweet, Kirby-Style
TiaCorine played fast and loose with her set at the BMI stage. The Winston-Salem rapper donned a fluorescent orange wig as attention-grabbing as her stage antics: opening up a pit for “Rocket,” throwing Kirby keychains into the crowd that mirrored her own statement piece, debuting an unreleased song while scaling the barrier holding back fans. What a shame, then, that she limited her spin on southern hip-hop to a 20-minute-long window. A set list that short played into her rising status as a part of this year’s XXL Freshman Class, downplaying the fact that she already has two albums to her name, 2021’s The Saga of 34Corine and 2022’s I Can’t Wait, that are worth your time. Instead, she opted to climb into the crowd to take selfies with fans, a decision that proved more memorable for some than others. –N.C.
Jessie Reyez Talks Friend Zone and Looks Toward “Forever”
Lollapalooza vet Jessie Reyez performed at Lolla for her own set in 2018 and has made appearances at others (she was a surprise guest during Grandson’s 2021 set to deliver Suicide Squad soundtrack song “Rain.”). This year, she returned with new material and to a bigger slot — she performed just before headliner Kendrick Lamar — and to a packed field chanting her name. She was as candid as ever, sharing her own harrowing story behind “Gatekeeper.” Later, she asked the crowd if anyone had gotten themselves out of the friend zone and how they did it. A couple relayed their story, which Reyez commended, but also teased them about how long it might last. “Good luck,” she quipped. As cutely cynical as the exchange was, Reyez is a romantic at heart, and launched into the hopeful “Forever” from sophomore album, Yessie. –A.L.