Most of the time, Lollapalooza’s scheduling seems left to the whims of fate, the daily lineup strung together seemingly at random so that indie poppers bump up against metal acts and soul throwbacks open for folky singer-songwriters. It makes for some wildly jarring juxtapositions, with occasional stumbles into transcendence.
Saturday was different, at least at the south end of Chicago’s Grant Park. The ascendance of headliners Mumford & Sons rippled all the way into the afternoon, where banjo-friendly arrangements and country twang informed the bulk of the performances: Court Yard Hounds brought their pop-friendly version of crossover bluegrass, Eric Church stomped through a set of outlaw Southern rock, and twee Irish strummers Little Green Cars crafted colorful tapestries out of all manner of acoustic thread. (The National, sandwiched in between Church and semi-main eventers the Lumineers, must have been deeply confused by all the headband-wearing sunflower girls hanging around, as they’re used to playing for broodier types. Still, they did dedicate “England” to Mumford & Sons.)
It all led up to a triumphant turn by Mumford & Sons, who drew a massive throng of folk-hungry youth to sing along with Marcus Mumford’s every bellow and wail. There wasn’t a single tune across Mumford’s nearly two-hour set that wasn’t greeted as a massive hit, though the gathering masses reserved extra glee for “Little Lion Man,” “I Will Wait,” and “Lover of the Light.”
Mumford & Sons are not showmen, and their performance was free of both bells and whistles, but their songs clearly resonate across a wide spectrum, and they’re savvy enough to get out of the way of their trainload of sing-alongs.
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