BY MARK GUARINO
The bookings at Lollapalooza routinely stretch back in time, but sometimes the split in years is an ugly rip. That was the case for AFI, the early millennium pop-punk band that sounded trapped in a time capsule of heavily processed guitars, harsh electro-beats and quasi-operatic vocals courtesy of lead singer Davey Havok. The band's set allowed Havok to jump off monitors and strike many stock glam poses.
Blues Traveler was another band that appeared dusted over. "Run-Around," their 1995 Grammy hit started the band's set, which allowed fans to renew their familiarity with singer John Popper's uniquely sweet voice and busy harmonica flutters. But while that revisiting was welcome, what followed was a sharp turn into jam band clichés, such as lengthy soloing that left whoever was not in the lead position looking bored. Even Popper took a few cigarette breaks to pass the time. Late into the set the band moved into unexpected territory with a cover of Radiohead's "Creep." Slowed and set to a quasi-reggae beat, the song still lost all its teeth and didn't provide any tension, or chills.
She's not Barney but influential rock frontwoman Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders closed the kids' stage Saturday with a five-song acoustic set accompanied by JP Jones, the Welsh songwriter with whom she recently recorded a new record, due in late August. (the band is scheduled to return to play the Park West on Oct. 10.) Billed as JP, Chrissie and the Fairground Boys, the sit-down set featured both singers trading vocals on songs like "If You Let Me" and "Meanwhile" that reflected a somber retelling of their recent but former May-December relationship. Playing guitar, tambourine and a single burst of harmonica, Hynde harmonized with Jones; her signature vibrato moving in waves along his gruff tenor.
Near the end of the set Hynde said the new album was about "when a woman meets a much younger man and they realize they don't have a future together."
"But don't worry, the kids are safe as long as I'm on this stage," she added.
Social Distortion was the last band to play the same stage before Green Day headlined and the booking was likely for good reason. Social Distortion helped define Southern California punk starting in the early 1980s while Green Day did the same for the north end of that state starting later that decade.
Leader Mike Ness (right, photo by Scott Stewart/Sun-Times) in his elder statesman years is faring well; Introducing "Mommy's Little Monster," the title song from the band's 1983 debut, he said he remembered it as a "time when it was dangerous to be a punk rocker roaming the streets."
Yet the songs played from that time period, particularly "Story of My Life," reflected a more rigid aesthetic, with literate lyrics, rough but lean guitarwork and knack for anthems straight from the book of Bruce Springsteen. Early in the set Ness played "Under My Thumb," the Rolling Stones chestnut that took time to reveal itself because of gritty transformation that made the song's title declaration sound less like a seduction and more a direct order.