Lollapalooza 2022 delivers memorable performances from iconic artists

Chelsea Cutler's and Gracie Abrams' Lollapalooza 2022 sets are pictured. Ryan Fairfield / The Tufts Daily

Every summer, over a hundred artists are invited to Chicago’s Grant Park for a weekend of music and entertainment. Lollapalooza is one of the biggest music festivals in the United States, made up of nine different stages and lasting four days. Artists, both big and small, take the stage and perform for thousands of local Chicagoans and visiting attendees. This year’s Lollapalooza included popular headliners like Dua Lipa and Metallica as well as a plethora of artists from every genre.

Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa was the last act to perform on the T-Mobile stage on July 29 and delivered an energetic, outstanding performance. Dua is no stranger to Lollapalooza and has performed at the festival multiple times. However this year was her first time headlining. Coming off her Future Nostalgia Tour, Dua was well prepared to perform to a crowd of 120,000 people.

Starting off strong, Dua began with “Physical” (2020), which was the perfect opportunity to showcase her vocal and dancing abilities as well as the skills of her incredible backup dancers. Dua’s setlist did not disappoint, with a majority of the songs from “Future Nostalgia” (2020) in addition to her older hits like “New Rules” (2017) and “One Kiss” (2018). 

It is not an exaggeration to say Dua Lipa was one of the best performances at Lollapalooza this year. Dua is not just a singer but a true performer. Whether it be dancing with umbrellas during “New Rules” or having giant inflatable balls made to look like the moon bouncing around in the crowd during “Levitating” (2020) her songs always had something extra to grab your attention or make them more engaging for the crowd without being distracting.

Gracie Abrams

Gracie Abrams is a rising star. Fresh off her This Is What It Feels Like Tour and opening for the first leg of Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour Tour, Abrams seemed imbued with a new level of confidence that felt different from her previous concerts, opening with “This Is What It Feels Like” (2021) and instantly capturing all of the audience’s attention. With Abrams, there is no dancing, no intricate set or accessories, just her, her microphone and a piano. The beauty behind the simplicity of Abrams’ performance is that even when she is on a large stage performing for hundreds of people at a festival like Lollapalooza, you can still feel that level of intimacy you would feel in a 150-person venue. Abrams’ music is best described as heartbreak pop. The style might seem out of place at a high-energy summer festival, but she made it work. Abrams brought out all of her biggest hits and had the audience singing and screaming alongside her. Similar to her previous concerts, Abrams found a healthy balance between her slower songs and her upbeat songs, which resulted in a lively, memorable set.

One moment from Abrams’ set stands out from the rest — her cover of “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn, frequently referred to as one of the best breakup songs of all time. Performing a song that is so iconic could have been intimidating, yet Abrams delivered a flawless cover. With crystal clear vocals, Abrams truly made the song her own and had the audience screaming every word alongside her.

Abrams ended her Lollapalooza set the same way she finished her opening act for the SOUR Tour, with “I miss you, I’m sorry” (2020). Before beginning, Abrams explained that the song was one of the first she ever released and described how she wrote it post-breakup. She said she had been feeling alone, but releasing the song connected her to those who took the time to listen to her music and helped her find community. Abrams told the crowd, “I felt really close to you guys when I put this song out. Please sing it with me.” This endearing anecdote energized the crowd, who sang along the loudest they had the whole performance.

Chelsea Cutler

Closing out the Coinbase stage on Saturday, Chelsea Cutler made sure to bring the spark and power to her performance. Cutler immediately took advantage of the stage layout and the large TV screens behind her, opening with “Under” (2021) and performing on an elevated part of the stage, while a field of sunflowers displayed behind her moved and pulsed with the music. Similar to Gracie Abrams, Cutler has an abundance of heartbreak-pop songs that she included in her set.

Although Cutler just concluded the first leg of her When I Close My Eyes Tour and is about to begin the second leg this fall, the best performances in her Lollapalooza set were the ones from her 2020 album “How to Be Human.” Following “Under,” Cutler moved into “Sad Tonight,” the first track from “How to Be Human.” This high-energy song encouraged the crowd to sing along to the lyrics displayed on the screens behind Cutler — hundreds of attendees screamed the pre-chorus, arguably the best part of the song, every time. Later on in her set, Cutler performed an acoustic version of “Crazier Things” (2020), a song that reminisces on a past relationship. Based on the number of people in the crowd recording on their phones, it was clear that this was an anticipated performance.

Cutler’s live vocals are wondrous. She is excellent at taking her songs and bringing the emotions to a new level that you do not feel on the original, recorded tracks. The best example of Cutler’s vocal abilities would have been her performance of “nj” (2020), a breakup song about her ex-girlfriend that captures the desire to relive moments with someone you once loved. With a loud bass and a strong, echoey backing track, Cutler gave an intense yet moving performance.

Charli XCX

The Bud Light stage had a disappointing start on the final day of Lollapalooza. Djo was the second artist to perform on the stage that day and delivered a good performance. However, nothing about it was that memorable, so there was a bit of pressure on Charli XCX to bring life back to the stage. Sadly, her showing was subpar.

One of the first issues with Charli’s performance was the choreography, which felt random, unnecessary and ultimately a distraction from the artist’s singing. Both the backup dancers and Charli herself seemed to be going through the motions as opposed to blending in the dancing and using them to bring the song to a new level. The performance overall lacked passion. It often felt as if Charli was performing for the sake of performing, rather than performing because she wanted to.

Some of the issues with Charli’s performance also fall on the crowd. At a concert, and especially at a music festival, the crowd has the power to create a lively atmosphere that makes everyone feel excited or they can set a tone that feels bland and unenthused. Charli’s crowd chose the latter. Of course, not every concert-goer will know every song and that is understandable. However, as an audience member, it is still possible to maintain a positive attitude even when the song is not known among the audience. It seemed that people at Charli XCX’s performance were only excited for two songs: “Vroom Vroom” (2016) and “I Love It” (2012). While these songs, as well as “Good Ones” (2022), were great moments in Charli’s set, it was still hard to move past the overall low quality.

Lollapalooza 2022

Lollapalooza was not lacking in talent this year. In addition to the artists mentioned above, there were countless talented individuals and groups that took the stage and delivered memorable performances. From WILLOW’s live rendition of “t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l” (2021) to Wallows’ enjoyable “Are You Bored Yet?” (2019), it seems that — after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic — Lollapalooza is back and reestablished as a summer staple for music lovers, both those in Chicago and those who travel from miles away to experience it.