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CHICAGO — Kanye West and Nine Inch Nails closed Lollapalooza 2008 in grand fashion Sunday in Chicago’s Grant Park, with the former regaling his hometown crowd with hit after hit and the latter band offering a tour-de-force of intense industrial rock.
All three days of Lollapalooza sold out this year, a first in the event’s four-year history as a one-off event in Chicago.
Unlike his now-notoriously late performance at Bonnaroo, West took the stage on time at 8:30 p.m. to a dazzling light show. With singers and a percussion/DJ setup behind him, he strutted across the front landing by himself for tracks like “Flashing Lights,” “Shine” and the place-appropriate “Homecoming.”
A cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which he often devotes to his late mother, was a late-set highlight, leading up to a triumphant, show-closing “Stronger.”
Across the field, the setting sun turned the sky pink and gray as Nine Inch Nails pounded out the opening bars of “March of the Pigs” through a haze of smoke. Gripping the microphone tight in an all-black outfit, frontman Trent Reznor growled through “1,000,000,” from the new album “The Slip,” which was given away as a free download this spring.
“Let’s f***ing do this,” he exclaimed before the mega-hit “Closer,” one of several highlights in a set that also included “Hurt” and “In This Twilight,” which was lit by strobes. The whole experience felt like the polar opposite of the laid-back set presented by Wilco on the same stage the previous night.
Earlier, the National offered up a set of emotional rockers like “Mr. November,” while the reunited Love & Rockets finished its performance dressed as bouncing Bubblemen, the band’s black-and-white costumed alien alter-egos.
At the opposite end of the park, a series of more dance-oriented acts were in the spotlight. DJ Mark Ronson performed a high-energy set featuring guests like hometown rapper Rhymefest, while Gnarls Barkley was backed by a school uniform-clad band in maroon vests and bowties for a set featuring “Crazy,” “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” and the Violent Femmes cover “Gone Daddy Gone.”
Chromeo was greeted with their usual chant “Chro-me-oh,” set to the tune of the Wicked Witch’s marchers from “The Wizard of Oz,” prior to a set featuring several tracks from last year’s “Fancy Footwork.”
Quite a commotion broke out during Girl Talk’s performance. Fans were continually foisted into the air for crowd-surfing, and renegade audience members tried their best to invade the stage, where a couple dozen guests were allowed to dance around mastermind Gregg Gillis. Rapper/performance artist Saul Williams took the stage for his own set with feathers stuck in hair, backed by his young daughter Saturn on several songs.
During the afternoon, G. Love & Special Sauce and Blues Traveler made a perfect one-two punch of roots-based pop/rock, with the former playing several fan favorites like “Can’t Go Back to Jersey” and “Rodeo Clowns.”
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