For the second year in a row, festival goers took to the fields of the Harvard Athletic Complex for three days of music, food, comedy and other performances.
Although the Arena Stage drew crowds for talks from the “Pod Save America” crew, Harvard grad Natalie Portman’s film series and stand-up comedy from David Cross, the musical performances predictably dominated the lineup.
Portugal. The Man a nice set-up for The Killers
Portugal. The Man hit Boston Calling’s Green Stage Friday evening, attracting swarms of music-lovers but giving a performance that was somewhat lackluster. The band played an assortment of upbeat rock songs including “Feel It Still,” a hit that had many people in the audience dancing as best they could on the crowded field.
Although Portugal. The Man became popular among alternative-rock fans years after The Killers burst on to the scene, the two bands have a similar sound. This could explain why Portugal. The Man’s performance seemed more like a precursor for a more popular band than anything else.
Save the best for last: The Killers close sunny Friday with engaging performance
After a hot and sunny opening day, crowds waited eagerly for the sun to go down and headlining band The Killers to take the stage.
The Las Vegas rockers had fans pressed against barricades, singing along to “Mr. Brightside” right out of the gate. Opening with their most popular song was a surprising choice, but the band continued to deliver hit after hit to the delight of the masses.
The Killers had no trouble keeping the attention of their audience with “Spaceman” and “Somebody Told Me,” and maintained high energy halfway through their set by inviting a fan to drum along with them during “For Reasons Unknown.”
Frontman Brandon Flowers reappeared onstage in a dazzling gold suit for an encore featuring “When You Were Young,” and in another crowd-pleasing move, drummer Ronnie Vannucci closed the day by tossing drumsticks, and even a cymbal, to cheering fans.
St. Vincent outshines other Saturday performances
Between vivid light shows, enthralling theatrical video clips and different neon guitars to match almost every song, St. Vincent gave a captivating performance like no other in the Saturday lineup.
Annie Clark, the singer from Texas who goes by St. Vincent, mostly stayed glued to her pedestal at the back of the stage, but made up for her lack of stage presence elsewhere. Her outfit, a neon-orange jumpsuit paired with matching, thigh-high boots was eye-catching without being distracting.
Clark’s vocals were chilling during newer songs like “Los Ageless” from 2017 album “Masseduction” and old favorites like 2011 hit “Cheerleader” alike. Her thought-provoking and serious lyrics were met with audience participation, and the singer even managed to earn a few laughs when she changed the lyrics of “New York” to suit Boston instead.
Tyler, the Creator gives flashy but substantial performance
Tyler, The Creator brought a charismatic end to the Saturday shows at the Delta Blue Stage. There’s no doubt the hip-hop artist’s performance was showy — he was sporting a neon vest with shorts to match — but his infectious energy shone brighter than his outfit.
Despite being the only performer onstage, Tyler dominated the space and had the crowd dancing, singing and roaring with applause even into headliner Jack White’s set.
In a midshow speech, Tyler thanked his audience for supporting him as he takes different approaches to his music and said he counts himself fortunate to have such a diverse fan base. To Boston’s credit, he even said the audience was better than the one he performed for at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
The Decemberists provide much-needed delight on rainy day
Thanks to years of experience, the Decemberists were anything but fazed by the less-than-ideal weather on the final day of Boston Calling. “It’s the right kind of weather to have this experience,” lead singer Colin Meloy self-deprecatingly joked.
The veteran indie-rock band from Portland graced the crowd with songs from their eighth studio album “I’ll Be Your Girl,” as well as a selection of older fan-favorites.
Meloy kept the atmosphere light, injecting humor into his performance at every turn. “You’ve come to the right stage if you want to hear a song about mining,” he quipped as an introduction to “Rox In The Box.” Meloy also capitalized on Boston’s liberal reputation by taking shots at President Donald Trump, calling him out in a laundry list of reasons why “Everything Is Awful,” a song from the new record.
Risks like that paid off with the damp audience, as did the group’s decision to play “Ben Franklin’s Song” from the “Hamildrops” series, a collection of previously unreleased content from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton.” By the end of their set, the Decemberists had drawn a shockingly big crowd for an afternoon performance, with fans singing along in front of the stage and nodding their heads all the way to the opposite end of the football field.
Khalid’s youth proves an advantage at Boston Calling
At just 20 years old, it’s no secret that rhythm and blues artist Khalid is less experienced than some of his fellow performers. Eminem is approaching 50. Rock band Belly first rose to fame in the early 90s, before Khalid was even born.
But Boston’s many college students certainly connected with him. From the moment he ascended to the stage from a rising platform, Khalid had the audience singing along to the lively opening lines of “8TEEN” and the slower melodies of “Coaster.”
While his moves could use some improvement, Khalid made up for his lack of showmanship with four dancers onstage and a rotation of recognizable on-screen graphics, like a throwback to the video game “Dance Dance Revolution.”
For many, dancing along to Khalid’s irresistibly catchy songs was the perfect way to stay warm on an unseasonably chilly Sunday evening.
See more photos from the weekend here.