SAN FRANCISCO —The weather forecast was calling for Sunday to be the one sunny day at Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park. But by the time headliners The Who took the stage, the fog had completely settled in. It had already been drizzling for a couple of hours and the ground was getting soggy.
“We think you’re tough to do this shit in weather like this. We hope the music will keep you warm,” legendary guitarist Pete Townshend said before he, singer Roger Daltrey and their band launched into “I Can See for Miles” early into their set.
The weather may have put a damper on the exuberance but most attendees stuck around to the English rock band with a 50-year catalog of classic rock tunes (attendance at electronic act Above & Beyond and R&B singer Solange, who performed at the same time, was also near capacity).
After kicking off with “I Can’t Explain,” the band’s first single all the way back in 1964, and 1971’s “The Seeker,” Daltrey and Townshend began a solid rock block with “Who Are You,” “I Can See for Miles,” “The Kids Are Alright” and “My Generation.” Their set was bookended by another block of hits with “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me, Feel Me,” “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” In between, the duo reminded fans how much staying power The Who still has with notable tracks like “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Bargain,” “Join Together,” “You Better You Bet,” “Eminence Front” and others. Those watching the set were likely fans from the early years or familiar with the songs from commercials. The Who is not shy about licensing songs. Multiple younger fans were seen Facetiming with—presumably—their parents who could not attend themselves.
Both Daltrey and Townshend took time to explain the origins of songs. Sometimes those interludes drew massive cheers. Before “Who Are You,” they spoke about playing the Fillmore in the ‘60s, then going on to Monterey Pop. The story next turned to the Vietnam War.
“We don’t want to do that again,” Townshend said. “We’re fucking serious.”
Sometimes the stories were met with bewilderment. As an introduction to “The Kids Are Alright,” Daltrey spoke about having a young wife and child when he was 19, and leaving them for the band, which he said turned out best for everyone.
But even when the jokes did not connect, The Who’s massively successful songbook carried the band to a successful conclusion of the 10th incarnation of the Outside Lands Music Festival. The set seemed to breeze by, a sure sign that fans would be left wanting more.
Other acts we loved Sunday:
While Solange and Above & Beyond were the niche competition to The Who as headliners, Lorde was arguably the most anticipated performer on Sunday. The Australian pop diva played a set that was evenly split between debut album Pure Heroine and the newly released Melodrama.
She also had four dancers, clad in matching blue outfits and wearing white Adidas that matched Lorde’s.
The new songs even better than the old ones; perhaps they were fresher and more exciting for her to perform, but it’s probably because they’re that good. Early in the set, she also performed “Magnets,” her song with Disclosure. Two of the dancers role-played a choreographed fight between a couple.
“Homemade Dynamite,” “Sober,” “Supercut,” and “Perfect Places” also went over really well, with Lorde’s fans singing along.
The most touching moment came when she was introducing the song “Liability” and began to tear up as she talked about the loneliness and having friends tell her that she “is a bit too much.” Friends she thought were there for the long haul had moved on from her. The ballad, performed with just her voice and a piano, was written as she was moving out from her parent’s home and also breaking up with her boyfriend. She learned how to properly be alone, she said.
Another highlight came when she invited earlier performer Jack Antonoff onto the stage. The two carried on a conversation about their relationship (he was instrumental on Melodrama), which includes a lot of shooting the breeze, before the two sat on the stage and performed an acoustic version of Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” She finished off with “Green Light,” the best song released this year (so far). “You have to summon the spirits for this one,” she warned in advance.
Jack Antonoff is one of pop’s most sought-after producers, but his current music project Bleachers is one of the best pop bands around right now.
At only nine songs, Antonoff’s set was way too short. Like Lorde, he has a new album out, and San Francisco got its first taste of the new songs with singles “Don’t Take the Money” and “Everybody Lost Somebody,” as well as two others
He invited his father on stage to jam on guitar on a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way.” Antonoff is a terrific showman and knows how to work a crowd.
“Thank you to whoever gave me their number on a balloon,” he said after a balloon landed on the stage. “I’m in a relationship (actress Lena Dunham) so I can’t call, but it always feel good to get hit on, San Francisco!”
During “Rollercoaster,” of Bleachers’ debut, he demanded that everyone get on someone else’s shoulders. Even though he has audience do this frequently, it doesn’t make it any less cool. The rest of the time, he was mentioning San Francisco at every opportunity, pointing to people in the crowd, dueling with a saxophonist and offering social commentary: “Fuckkkkkk white supremacy!”
After his set, Antonoff made a surprise appearance at one of the festival’s promotional tents—this one a Subway outpost—and performed a 25-minute acoustic set where he took requests and interacted with a crowd of about 50 people. Jack Antonoff is a man of the people.
It’s a crime she didn’t get a spot later in the day, more people should have experienced that show.
With a backing band in matching powder blue three piece suits, a dress and stage that evoked a 1930s lounge act, and music that mixed neo-rockabilly, Latin, and pure punk rock, was a downright fun show. Despite the language barrier limiting the stage banter Laferte had the crowd clapping and jumping, and each member of the horn section got a solo that was met with more cheers than you’d expect a trumpet to get at a festival.
If one show can inspire everything from a metalhead throwing up the horns for a guitar solo to a man in his 70s dancing apparently despite himself they’re clearly doing something right. If she comes through the Bay Area again you owe it to yourself to see them live.
Showcasing her career’s progression from hip hop to alternative rock to everything between, she put on a great show. She got her start as a rapper, as odd as that may be from a Stanford student from suburban Chicago, but made a name for herself nonetheless. Lately she’s veered into almost ’90s-throwback alternative rock – think a harder, heavier version of Meredith Brooks – and she’s just as successful at that.
Midway through her set she said, “This is my first summer doing festivals. Usually over the summer I’m a camp counselor.” That was a surprise since she worked the stage like a seasoned touring veteran.
Covered in streamers and showing them off in the occasional Stevie Nicks twirl, the singer-songwriter’s set was polished, sounded great, and was well-appreciated by the surprisingly large crowd for the stage and time slot. And she covered Neil Young, which is never a bad idea.
Is he for everyone? No. Does that mean we didn’t dig him? Also no. If he’s your cup of tea it was a killer set that included several songs off his upcoming album Blue Chips 7000. The steady stream of people leaving, presumably because they only knew him from his TV shows “Action Bronson Watches Ancient Aliens” and “F*ck, That’s Delicious” and had never actually heard his music, were missing out.
Editor Daniel J. Willis contributed to this report. Follow Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter and RomiTheWriter.Tumblr.com. Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData. Follow photo editor Alessio Neri at Instagram.com/windowofcolor and Windowofcolor.com.