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Lollapalooza: Lessons in old-school from the Walkmen, Raphael Saadiq

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BY THOMAS CONNER

Mid-afternoon Friday in the south field at Lollapalooza was about being old-school.

The Walkmen have been together 10 years. They manage to sound relatively fresh while drawing upon sounds and song styles much older than themselves, namely the squeezing, wheezing Dylanesque singing of Hamilton Leithauser, the 1950s-echoed guitar of Paul Maroon and the eerie cocktail organ of Walter Martin. Here's a band that began -- born from the ashes of short-lived but explosive Jonathan Fire*Eater -- all about creating certain instrumental tones. But the acquisition of Leithauser wound up deepening not only the sound but the songwriting. The new songs played from the band's upcoming next album, "Lisbon," due Sept. 14, are rich tales of wary living ("You're one of us or you're one of them," Leithauser shouted over and over) and worn romance ("There's a girl that you should know / she's from my not so long ago"). In a white button-down shirt, with sleeves rolled up, and a black tie, he leaned into the microphone, plungering his tenor through the very top of his sinuses for an incredible elongated moment during "All Hands and the Cook." One wonders how he maintains his voice over the course of a tour, but he sounded great here. Looking forward to the next disc.

After that, as Chicago's Mavis Staples took the stage in the north end of the field, a younger soul icon brought his own lessons in old-school on the main Parkways stage: Raphael Saadiq. Once a pioneer of New Jack Swing (we can now justifiably giggle at that label) in the group Tony! Toni! Tone!, Saadiq now looks like a traveling education in classic soul, complete with almost 12 band members in black Blues Brothers suits. He can lay down smooth, supple grooves, with a band that sounds as if they could back B.B. King later tonight, and talk sexy to the crowd simply singing, "Yeah, yeah, yeah," and then punch it up with a rock 'n' soul hit like "So Lady."

mavis.tc.jpgMavis Staples rocked the north end of the Lollapalooza field Friday afternoon. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on August 6, 2010 3:45 PM.

Lollapalooza 2010 starts, rocks and raps with B.o.B. was the previous entry in this blog.

Lollapalooza: Are we not men? Well, they are still Devo! is the next entry in this blog.

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