BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Critic
I had tweeted earlier in the day Saturday that I'd like to hear less "thank you" and more "f--- you" at Lollapalooza. So many bands had been taking to the stages and voicing their unbounded gratitude -- thanking everyone for being there and thanking Lollapalooza for having them, profusely -- that it started to feel like rock was really dead, after all. Where's the sneer, the challenge, the middle finger?
Cee Lo Green has something to say about that, literally. Appearing on stage wearing football shoulder pads bearing long chrome spikes and hanging chains, Green juiced the crowd by demanding that we shout "f--- yeah!" It was an opening salvo in a long tease leading up to the one song the massive crowd in Hutchinson Field wanted to hear. In the meantime, however, we listened to Green shout and growl -- for most songs, his trademark smooth husk was gone, even intentionally distorted (and he's a judge on "The Voice," no less) -- through a speedy set of his rock-soul songs and a few unexpected covers, from the Violent Femmes to Billy Idol. Green seemed to suffer from technical issues, as well, stopping and starting songs, such as his "Crazy" hit with Gnarls Barkley, haphazardly.
One of his early records was "Cee Lo Green Is a Soul Machine," but Saturday night's hard riffs and black leather meant to portray a rock machine. And nothing says rock and roll like "F--- You," which Green finally got around to at the end of his hourlong set. The crowd delighted in singing along with every line, then Green sauntered off victorious, complete with his own exit music: a crowd-assisted abbreviation of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'."
Preceding Mr. Green was one of those fawning, thankful bands. Orange County's Local Natives were clearly thrilled to have graduated from last year's Pitchfork Music Festival to this year's Lollapalooza. "This is the biggest crowd we've played to by far," said singer Kelcey Ayer. "This is insane!" It was a joyous, not fearful, exclamation, fitting with the band's sweet temperament. All tight SoCal harmonies and heaving, unaffected guitars, Local Natives moved through a set of rhythmic charmers from their own "Shape Shifter," built on piano chord crescendos, and a cover of the Talking Heads' "Warning Sign." The Sony stage seemed like it might be too big for them, but they held it. Fleet and foxy.