By this point thoroughly exhausted from enjoying the music and the hot desert sun, I took part in another bottled water and took time to wonder who in the hell spends $8 dollars for a plastic cup of champagne. The Bellydance All-stars (that coincidentally I missed on the second stage) took the stage for a brief but beautiful and shall I say flexible display. The sun was going down so the lights went down and then burst on as Audioslave jumped into their set and a big rock star curtain came down. Drummer Brad Wilk faced away from the audience into a panel of mirrors that reflected the audience behind him. Confusing but effective I suppose. Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s shocking even to me but Audioslave was the band of the day. Rockers such as “Set it Off”, “Shadow of the Sun”, “Show Me How to Live” and the radio hit “Cochise” exploded in the evening air with the crowd frantically singing along. The band left the stage as Chris Cornell picked up an acoustic guitar an invited a fan onstage to join him for a song. Cornell asked the kid what song he wanted to sing and the kid squeamishly said, “I donâ€šÃ„Ã´t know.” Cornell (who I should point out even talks like a rock star with a raspy voice) said, “you wanna freestyle rap?” The kid nodded uncertainly and Cornell busted out a monotonous rhythm and the kid started freestyling about how much he loved Maynard and Audioslave. The crowd ate it up and gave him a standing ovation.
Cornell then went into a majestic cover of Elvis Costelloâ€šÃ„Ã´s Peace Love and Understanding all by himself. Then he began the opening melody of the super ballad “I Am the Highway”. The rest of Audioslave suddenly jumped back in during the chorus for what was a predictable yet incredible rock and roll moment. As soon as that song finished Brad Wilk started a thundering beat and Timmy C. broke in with none other than the opening bassline of The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army”. Cornell commanded, “Clap your fucking hands!” as the audience went full board ballistic. It was the last song I ever thought Audioslave would cover but it worked for every reason. The crowd loved it, the band loved it. It was just different enough that it added the perfect spice to a stellar set. It made me think of the way bands were well before my time where covering a song that absolutely kicked ass was common, not for the trend of it but out of mutual respect and appreciation.
So it might seem unfathomable for a band to headline such a day of excellent music. For me after 13 years of fandom and zero actual times seeing them live, thankfully Janeâ€šÃ„Ã´s Addiction magnificently pulled it off. Janeâ€šÃ„Ã´s had the closest thing to a set on the day with an arched staircase and a phallic pole extending into the audience. The band took the stage minus Perry Farrell and blasted the classic instrumental “Up the Beach”. Dave Navarro then immediately began the fast picking intro to “Stop” and as Perry ran out of nowhere up the staircase and jumped to the stage floor screaming “Here we go!” Janeâ€šÃ„Ã´s showed the brilliance a headliner should in such favorites as the “Mountain Song”, “Been Caught Stealing” and “Ocean Size”. The tunes from Strays were kept to a minimum, only 3, and Perry only occasionally went on one of his famous rants.
I felt somewhat complete when the band showed the full scope of its talent in the classic “Three Days”. I truly did miss Eric Avery but the finesse of Dave Navarro and the overwhelming ferocity of Stephen Perkins has to be one of the greatest gifts in all of the history of alternative music. Perry roamed like an elder statesman that refused to acknowledge he was anything but 22 years old. Perry spoke how happy they all were to be back home in southern California to play this next song as the band closed with the only song they possibly could have: “Jane Says”. On the sides of the stage you could see veritably every single person from the whole days affairs watching along. I couldnâ€šÃ„Ã´t help but think it was very special. Lollapalooza was the place for new and rising talents in music thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s only flag was to be different. It definitely wasnâ€šÃ„Ã´t that anymore but it was wonderful to see that most everyone on the bill came from the spoils of that early 90â€šÃ„Ã´s time. Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s not the same kind of wonderful, just a different kind.