Radiohead plays polished gem at Chicago festival

CHICAGO (Reuters) - British art rock sensations Radiohead played a gem-like performance on the Chicago lakefront on Friday, headlining the first night of the three-day Lollapalooza music festival.

“They sound extremely polished,” said fan Arynne Gilbert, 28, from Chicago, as the band went through a two-hour, 24-song set that included “Fake Plastic Trees,” and “Paranoid Android.”

Lollapalooza is billed as the largest alternative music festival in the United States, a midsummer ultra-marathon of music, street food, beer and sweat.

A sell-out crowd of about 75,000 watched the five-piece ensemble from Oxfordshire, accompanied by a spectacular video and light show as darkness fell over the Windy City

Bass guitarist Colin Greenwood gave a nod to the host city, wearing a Chicago Transit Authority T-shirt.

Radiohead, which released its first single in 1992, has been this year’s hot ticket as it tours in support of the critically acclaimed 2007 release “In Rainbows.”

The band famously sold downloads of the disk for whatever price customers chose, including for free. Recently Radiohead has led an MTV campaign against sweatshop labor and human trafficking.

“They have a lot of good energy,” said Katrina Ordonez, 28, who is studying acupuncture in Beijing.

Thom Yorke, lead singer of Radiohead, performs on stage during their concert at the Rock-en-Seine Festival in Saint-Cloud, near Paris, August 26, 2006. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier


Fans camping out ahead of Radiohead’s set said they were at the festival to hear a variety of music.

“We just came from The Go! Team, and it was really cool,” said Wayne Bromgard, 22, of Chicago, referring to a band from Brighton, England whose music is heavy on action theme songs and cheerleader chants.

“I like to hear everything. The headliners get people out, but the other side is coming out and checking out new stuff,” said Chicagoan Sandy Hunter, 23.

Daniel Mollendor and Andrew Villalobos, both 21, traveled from Fort Collins, Colorado, with a clear agenda in mind.

“We mainly made the trip for Rage Against the Machine,” Mollendor said of the Los Angeles-based band known for its radical political views.

“Rage” plays on Saturday night, going up against Chicago’s own indy favorite Wilco.

Rumors have been flying that Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama might appear with Wilco, as he did at the band’s appearance at a Farm Aid show in 2005. Wilco has also played at Obama fundraisers.

Another Chicago native son, hip-hop superstar Kanye West, closes the festival on Sunday night in a head-to-head match-up with industrial rock icons Nine Inch Nails.

The city’s famous skyline lends a spectacular backdrop for Lollapalooza, whose name is slang for “something extraordinarily impressive.” More than 120 bands and artists are slated to appear on eight stages, with musical genres ranging from Goth rock to old-school funk/soul.

Cassandra Gillig, 15, was at her first Lollapalooza with father Carl, 47, and said the “layered vocals” of Brooklyn freak-folk quartet Grizzly Bear had been a highlight.

The festival, which in its 1990s incarnation toured the United States each summer, is contracted to stay in Chicago’s Grant Park through 2011.