A front row view at Outside Lands on Sunday 

click to enlarge Festive guy: At Outside Lands' main stage on Sunday afternoon, Nate Ruess revealed why the band fun. is so appropriately named. - GODOFREDO VASQUEZ, SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Festive guy: At Outside Lands' main stage on Sunday afternoon, Nate Ruess revealed why the band fun. is so appropriately named.

One of the coolest things about Outside Lands is how it manages to be a highly individual experience for tens of thousands of festival-goers _  all at the same time.

In chronological order, here are a few random reflections on the 2012 edition from this middle-aged, 4-foot, 11-inch tall music lover who didn’t give up her spot (and hard-fought prime sightline) in the front row at the Lands End stage on the Polo Field _ all day Sunday.

With his ample, curly blond mane, the gangly Allen Stone looked more like a seasoned jam band musician than the kick-butt soul singer he is. He said he’s coming back to the Great American Music Hall in October _  a show not to be missed.  

The day’s most fun act, by far, was fun., best known for this spring’s radio hit “We Are Young” – and that wasn’t even the catchiest tune in the set. Non-guitar-playing frontman-vocalist Nate Ruess _ flying across the stage, wearing a button-down shirt, white jeans and Topsiders _ could not be more adorable.

NME darlings Franz Ferdinand from Scotland did their job, energetically firing up “Take Me Out,” “This Fire” and “Can’t Stop Feeling,” which delightfully segued into a snippet of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.”     

Piano-playing Regina Spektor _ sweet, pleasant and bright in a red top and matching lipstick _ worked best for this listener with her more straightforward songs, like the heartbreaking “How,” even though the crowd really enjoyed the quirkier “and it breaks my  heart” wordplay and singing in her hit “Fidelity.”

Despite virtuoso musicianship, critics favorite Jack White and his hard-rocking band’s set was wasted on this melody-craving listener, who admittedly thinks it’s cool the former White Stripes guy collaborated with Loretta Lynn. White was at his most charming with the comments: “Are you feeling good? Then I’m doing my job” and “It’s hard to play electronic equipment in daylight.”

The sun was setting as Stevie Wonder began his segment, with not entirely necessary nods to Marvin Gaye _ playing  “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” _ and Michael Jackson (“The Way You Make Me Feel”). Mini-gripe: Of course Gay and Jackson are great artists, but does Wonder really have to cover them, at the expense of skipping his own great songs? 

While the show didn’t amaze as did Wonder’s 2007 appearance in Concord _ his first in the area in more than a decade _  he certainly didn’t disappoint, playing everything from the slightly lesser known “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” and “Overjoyed” to unbeatable modern classics, like “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” “My Cherie Amour” “Higher Ground,” “Livin’ for the City,” “I Wish,” “Sir Duke” and “Superstition.”

Wanting to beat the huge departing crowd, I  made my way out of Golden Gate Park as Wonder wound down his set, with Beatles and Temptation covers, and his Martin Luther King tribute, “Happy Birthday.”

Happy fifth birthday Outside Lands _ looking forward to seeing you next year! 

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Leslie Katz

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