The neon-clad 20-somethings that scampered around Chicago’s Grant Park for Lollapalooza on Friday were largely there to see some of their DJ heroes spinning records – or clicking their laptop’s mouse – at the festival’s Perry’s Stage.
But hopefully they knew that one of the forebears of what is now known, rightfully or not, as EDM was appearing that night at the Red Bull Sound Select Stage.
The U.K.’s New Order, which formed in 1980 out of the ashes of Joy Division after the suicide of singer Ian Curtis, is largely regarded as one of the most influential bands of the 1980s, combining new wave with electronica.
With Bernard Sumner leading the way, New Order turned in a classic Lolla set that included some of their biggest hits in “Blue Monday,” “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “Ceremony.”
As Sumner held center court, he was flanked by keyboardist Gillian Gilbert, bassist Tom Chapman, guitarist Phil Cunningham and drummer Stephen Morris. Of course, a look at the band’s bio will show that each also has a synthesizer close to their name, as well.
As New Order took the stage to a massive crowd, light afternoon showers had turned part of the field muddy, but that didn’t stop the dance party.
“Age of Consent,” for example, with that unforgettable riff that carries throughout the entire song, caused nearly everyone in attendance to shake their hips in approval.
The same thing happened with the opening staccato beats of “Blue Monday.”
In fact, spotting a fan who wasn’t dancing in one way or another proved to be quite a challenge.
For many, however, the best moment of the show came with the final song. New Order opted to pay tribute to their roots with Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” one of a few Joy Division classics they put on the setlist.
While electronic music was abundant on the first day of Lollapalooza, New Order put on a clinic.
The Killers also paid tribute to Joy Division.
Having originally covered Joy Division’s “Shadowplay” back in 2007, the Las Vegas band brought it out again in Grant Park during their headlining set.
It was only right that Sumner joined the Killers for that iconic song, much to the delight of the crowd. And, it wasn’t even their only cover for the evening.
The other oddity was their version of Tommy James & the Shondells “I Think We’re Alone Now,” which caused a near riot when frontman Brandon Flowers belted out the first few lines.
Of course, the Killers have a thick binder full of hits to their credit, and they did not disappoint, accentuating tracks like “Miss Atomic Bomb” from 2012’s Battle Born and 2006’s “Read My Mind” with a stellar light show and a slew of dancers.
As their set began, frontman Dan Reynolds bounded across the stage with genuine enthusiasm, but even he was a little taken aback by the electrical difficulties. No matter, though. That just gave the sardined crowd an opportunity to begin a round-robin version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Once power returned, Imagine Dragons tore back into their regular routine of bombastic theatrics that culminated in a larger-than-life performance of their smash “Radioactive,” with each member of the band taking advantage of the giant drum kits on stage.
Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit played shortly after Imagine Dragons with an evening showtime. Playing on the Grove Stage, amongst overhanging trees, the band was game in playing with the crowd.
Frontman Scott Hutchinson made it a point to say hello to the passers-by that walked on the asphalt road that was set far behind the sound board. And he noted that several audience members might be playing out the theme of the song “Late March, Death March,” which is about two people getting into a drunken argument where one half gives in at the mercy of sleep.
Judging by the amount of crushed beer cans on the grounds of Grant Park, he is probably correct.
Houndmouth was another highlight of the day, with their BMI Stage early afternoon showing drawing a dedicated audience that seemed to sing along with every word from their debut album From the Hills Below the City.
A four-piece from the Midwest, Houndmouth’s spot-on harmonies are first noticed, but the impressive guitar work from axeman Matt Meyers and the accenting organ from Kate Toupin complete the sonic landscape.
Offerings like “Penitentiary” and “Ludlow,” which they recently played on The Late Show with David Letterman call to mind folk and country rock acts like the Band and Jackson Browne.