Lollapalooza Day 1 reviews: Tech woes snarl Sam Fender; Sampa the Great sets high-energy tone

Lollapalooza 2022 is off to the races on Thursday and it’s clear who most everyone is here to see, with a sea of ​​Metallica shirts becoming the unofficial uniform for the day. Crowds packed Grant Park early to get a taste of more amplified acts as Lolla taps into its rock roots with Inhaler and The Wombats and perhaps one of the heavier bands to ever grace the stages festival, metalcore act Lorna Shore.

Sam Fender

If there is a good-sport trophy to be handed out this weekend it goes to Sam Fender. The buzzy British singer-songwriter (just recently nominated for the UK’s holy grail Mercury Prize and adored by Adele and Elton) was cheated out of nearly 30 minutes of his set due to massive technical difficulties that could have put “]Spinal Tap to shame. Seething with understandable frustration and calling his set “the biggest shamble,” Fender still powered through, offering a solid if off-kilter set as the crew tried to come up with a workaround solution.

Fender started off solo, with just his electric guitar and emotive voice, offering a memorable version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” somehow turning it into a haunting slow-dance ballad. It was a bold move as Fender not only has gushed about Springsteen being a major influence, but the rising star has also been racking up accolades with many comparing his working-class narratives to the American rock staple.

Sam Fender nervously bites his nails as bandmates and equipment managers attempt to fix technical difficulties that delayed his set Thursday at Lollapalooza at Grant Park,

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The full band did join Fender eventually on “Getting Started” from his acclaimed “coming of age” album, “Seventeen Going Under,” that was released last November. They also pulled from his just as beautiful debut, 2019’s “Hypersonic Missiles,” which he previously delivered at his first Lollapalooza appearance in 2019 without issue. The addition of live horns was a welcome component, giving off a War On Drugs vibe and offering a tempting taste of what Fender can bring live when all systems are go.

He’ll be back in Chicago Sept. 7, opening for Florence and the Machine at Huntington Bank Pavilion on Northerly Island. Though, if any venues are listening and have an opening for an after show this weekend, he really deserves that second chance. —Selena Fragasi

Sampa the Great

Sampa the Great performs on day one of Lollapalooza in Grant Park, Thursday afternoon, July 28, 2022.

Sampa the Great performs Thursday on day one of Lollapalooza in Grant Park.

As festivalgoers slowly streamed into Lollapalooza on Thursday afternoon, rapper Sampa the Great stepped onto the Coinbase Stage with a burst of energy. The Zambia-born, Melbourne, Australia-based artist took her early — and arguably unenviable — timeslot in stride, selecting to blaze through her opening number, “Energy,” with her band helping her set a high-energy tone for the weekend ahead .

On her recordings, Sampa is known for her unwavering and steady voice as she deftly delivers bars and occasionally sings over instrumentals driven by crisp beats and samples of horns and harmonies — all working to emphasize her conscious, evocative lyrics.

But in her Lollapalooza debut, Sampa and her band, all clad in matching white outfits, worked as a tight unit emanating electricity as they jammed through a setlist that spanned her nearly seven-year career. The rapper commanded the stage, often the mic on its stand to use both of her hands for extra emphasis, making the spoken-word nature of some of her verses hit even harder.

In a break between songs, Sampa expressed how proud she was to be there with her band, explaining they were the first Zambian act to play Coachella, Glastonbury, the Sydney Opera House and now Lollapalooza.

“It feels good to share our music and have it connect with all of you like this,” she said.— Matt Moore

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