Nine Inch Nails headlined the second night of Made In America, filling the “rock legend” slot occupied by Pearl Jam at last year’s festival. As with Pearl Jam, many fans showed up mainly to see the headliner, and others left before their set. Like Public Enemy, who played the Rocky stage the prior day, NIN do not fit into the #YOLO vibe, which means that a good amount of the audience don’t know what to do with their music. Are girls expected to grind? Should guys twirl their t-shirts over their heads? There’s no question that it’s a much different era from the one when Trent Reznor and crew leveled the stage at Woodstock ’94 and had their zeitgeist moment.
Reznor opened the show, unaccompanied, on a sampler – a reference to the beginning of Talking Heads’ concert film Stop Making Sense, (a reference which may have been lost on much of the audience). He started with the new song “Copy Of A,” singing “I am just a shadow of a shadow of a shadow/always trying to catch up with myself.” And that seemed like an odd choice to open a show featuring acts that were less than half of Reznor’s age. But he’s always been overly tough on himself (a characteristic that has inspired album after album of brilliance), and to be fair, he played with more rage and fury than any other performer over the weekend, with the possible exception of Public Enemy’s Chuck D.
PHOTO GALLERY: Made In America 2013
The thing is, “rage and fury” aren’t really “a thing” in popular music circa 2013; on the other hand, Nine Inch Nails was never built to fit in to the pop charts. The mid-90s seem like an anomaly all these decades later. Repelling people while transfixing a solid and sizable audience? That’s what they’ve always been about, and that’s what happened Sunday night at Made In America. NIN’s scorched earth versions of classics like “March Of The Pigs,” “Terrible Lie,” “Wish” and “Head Like A Hole,” surely repelled much of the audience, but thousands more were rapt throughout the entire performance, which closed with “Hurt.” — Brian Ives
CALVIN HARRIS TURNS IT OUT
Nine Inch Nails was the headliner, but it was Calvin Harris that much of the audience was waiting to see: putting him on the smaller Liberty stage served to give his set even more of a vibe of an extremely sold out concert, and one that everyone felt happy to be at. Starting his set with “Sweet Nothing,” his collaboration with Florence Welch, he had the audience in the palm of his hand for an hour, and judging by the crowd reaction, they would happily have bounced through another hour or two. Whether playing his own hits (his Rihanna collab “We Found Love,” “Drinking From The Bottle” with Tinie Tempeh) or other people’s music (Showtek’s “Booyah” made people lose their minds, as did Knife Party’s “Lrad”), the energy level never lagged during the show (as opposed to Deadmau5’s set on the same stage the prior evening). And he also had his genuine rock star moment, closing with his own hit “Feel So Close,” which the audience sang back to him, as he beamed from behind his DJ gear. – B.I.
QUEEENS OF THE STONE AGE: ‘BREAK THE RULES, BUT DON’T HURT ANYONE!’
He may be a member of a band called Eagles Of Death Metal, but that doesn’t mean that Queens Of The Stone Age frontman Josh Homme isn’t a nice guy. Early in the set he announced, “Philly, it’s goddamn good to see ya! Let’s keep sweating together!” And while the hot day was beginning to cool down (temperatures passed the 90s for much of the afternoon) the Queens worked the crowd and themselves into a healthy sweat. Opening with “My God Is The Sun” from their current album …Like Clockwork (which recently topped the Billboard Album Chart), they played material from their entire career, and the dedicated audience members knew every song. As with Nine Inch Nails, they didn’t really fit in with the party vibe of the festival, but still went over well with those who hadn’t left to grab a good spot for Calvin Harris. Homme observed, “There’s lots of rules here! We know how to have fun and respect each other. Let’s put those rules in our back pocket and get s***-faced!” Sadly, he soon saw why some rules are necessary, when some unruly fans caused him to call them out from the stage during “Make It Wit Chu,” yelling, “Where do you think you are? Your parents’ house?” The Queens’ blend of black-light ’70s metal and ’80s hardcore punk was a throwback (kind of like NIN) to the Lollapalooza tours of the ’90s, but also provided a guitar-filled contrast to the hip-hop, EDM, R&B and pop music of the day. – B.I.
MACKLEMORE & LEWIS HEARTS PHILLY
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis aimed to please the minute they hit the stage, with their charismatic MC giving multiple shout-outs to Philly – including a big-up to cheesesteaks. Macklemore also wore an old-school Philadelphia Phillies t-shirt and told the crowd that they were the craziest he’d seen on the entire tour. That could be because the hip-hop duo (like Calvin Harris) was way too big to be playing the relatively small Liberty stage, but the good vibes that they sent out during their performance kept the racially diverse crowd happy through the entire set, which, of course, included “Thrift Shop,” “Can’t Hold Us” and the anthem “Same Love.” – Courtney E. Smith
MIGUEL SEDUCES LITERALLY EVERYONE
If you leave a Miguel performance feeling anything less than great, it’s probably your fault. For his turn at the stage in Philly, he came out in all white — a smart choice as he had the second stage at the exact moment the sun was blazing straight onto it. Within a few short songs, he was lifting his shirt to taunt the crowd with glimpses of his abs while singing “Use Me.”
His entire set was, as is expected, completely sexy but his live band makes it feel like a rock show. Like Prince, who has clearly influenced his performance style, you don’t get skeeved out because you’re being rocked as you’re being turned on. Teasing is a huge tool in his arsenal and it came out with a double head on “How Many Drinks?” The track started with a sample of “Swimming Pool (Drank)” by Kendrick Lamar, who had performed on the opposite stage just before him. Lamar didn’t make an appearance, but by the end of the song Miguel was asking the audience how many drinks — and when they agreed it would take none, he told them: “Prove it.”
He closed his set with “Beautiful,” which he’s worked into a serviceable solo song with all traces of Mariah Carey removed but it still sticks out in his catalog as the cotton candy flavored martini next to a bottle of whiskey. – C.E.S.
KENDRICK LAMAR AND BLACK HIPPY OFFER VARIED PERFORMANCES
A funny thing keeps happening when hip hop acts take the stage: suddenly, everyone starts Crip walking. It’s like they can’t help themselves.
The first 15 minutes of Kendrick Lamar’s set were dedicated to a School Boy Q performance. His joke rhymes and the poor audio mix make him off like a poor warm-up act to Lamar’s full band performance. When Lamar took the stage, at around 4:45PM ET, the heat was at an apex and so was the fervor to see him perform. Lamar took full advantage, like a true showman, and told the crowd, “I don’t care how hot it is, we are gonna turn the f*** up.” After he started (with the old Dolby surround sound cue), his set seemed to take a page from the style of Public Enemy, although not from the politics. From the instrumentation to the energy down to the shout out to South Central and Compton — Lamar and the other members of Black Hippy seem to be playing to hip hop’s roots while pushing it forward. – C.E.S.
SOLANGE DISPLAYS HER SHARE OF KNOWLES FAMILY TALENTS
It was a Knowles family affair at Made In America, where both Beyoncé and Solange played sets. The differences in style and music were stark, but the sisters have one thing in common: their utter and complete mastery of charismatic stage presence. When they pick up the mic, everyone is rapt. Solange took the stage in her trademark style of mixed patterns and consciously undone polish. Sadly Dev Haynes from Lightspeed Champion (and Solange’s sometime producer/tour mate/partner in crime) wasn’t there to dance routines with her, but the dance routines did come out. At one point Solange told the crowd she wanted to turn this into “one big junior high school grind fest” and whenever she directed the crowd to dance, they obliged.
Where big sis Beyoncé can’t drop an f-bomb, it seems Solange can’t stop herself (and a few other profanities too). Solange has spent her entire career moving closer towards her real artistic identify and she’s all the more accessible and fun for it. Perhaps something Mrs. Carter could take a note on. – C.E.S.
ARTIST TO WATCH: ALUNAGEORGE
There’s been a lot of buzz around AlunaGeorge, but their festival performance showed she’s not quite ready for the festival circuit yet. The jams are tight: it is almost impossible to stop yourself from dancing to them and the music is on point. But vocalist Aluna Francis wasn’t quite able to let go of the charisma she’s clearly holding in and get the crowd into the palm of her hand. But the duo’s potential is clear. – C.E.S.