- by Tim Sentz Rating: Release Date: Label:
Somewhere around 2000, The Flaming Lips went from being a quirky indie rock band who liked Vaseline on toast, to evolving into a cult act emphasizing showmanship when they’d come to your town. And that’s what attending concerts is about – entertainment. Thousands of musicians tour the world every year, and some keep it simple with just their band on stage, and a few lights flickering. Maybe some fog.
If you’ve never had the chance to see the Flaming Lips live in the 21st Century you need to fix that. Fans and non-fans alike can enjoy a show that right from the beginning is a party, and that party doesn’t stop until the lights of the venue come on.
Wayne Coyne is one of the best frontmen in the business. Outside of monetary gain obviously, Coyne wants every person at every show to have fun. He encourages phone usage to capture the moment, he encourages the usage of libations to increase enjoyment, he encourages you and me and everyone around us to leave the show with a big smile on their face – and that’s exactly what happened last night.
Arriving roughly at 9:15 PM, Coyne appeared on stage with the rest of the team, as “Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30” by Richard Strauss began; you know that song – Ric Flair’s entrance music, “2001: A Space Odyssey” theme. Immediately after, the Flips launched directly into one of the best stretches of songs I’ve ever witnessed – “Race for the Prize” (a perennial favorite), “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt.1” and “Fight Test.” “Prize” is probably my favorite Lips track, and was the overall highlight of the night due to it kicking things off in prime fashion – confetti, balloons, lights, lasers, it felt like New Year’s Eve the day before the Armageddon.
“Yoshimi” is a constant staple and always a joy to witness, complete with a massive inflatable robot above Coyne. I’d never heard “Prize” live before, but it was everything I hoped it would be; what I didn’t expect was for “Fight Test” to be as enjoyable as it was. I’m a fan of the song for sure, but the live rendition was awe-inspiring.
After a warped cover of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Coyne and co. delivered their anti-Bush war song “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)” which is always fun. It’d been 8 years since I’d seen the Lips live, but I didn’t recall “YYY” being so powerful to behold. As “Yeah Yeah Yeah” flashed across the large display above them, and the backing vocals from two female keyboardists – who I’m unfamiliar with as band members, but the soaring “Ahhhhhhhhh” of “YYY” was on point thanks to them – it all came together extremely well and entertaining.
And then things changed. Riding high off the string of crowd-pleasers the Flaming Lips opted to dramatically shift towards oddball cuts from their most recent album “Oczy Mlody” which is one of their worst received albums in recent memory. Thankfully the “show” aspect continued with the laser hands pointed at the disco ball covering the Uptown crowd with green beams. But every show seems to have that “go get a beer” song, but for the Flips it lasted way too long due to the drawing out of songs for the experience.
“There Should Be Unicorns” did feature an inflatable unicorn attached to a motorized cart that Coyne drove through the crowd (slowly) shaking hands and high-fiving people. But this section of the show – while offering a much-needed break – lasted too long for a crowd stuffed into an overly hot venue and sweating all over each other. Things returned to stellar stance later as Coyne entered the hamster ball and rolled out into the crowd for a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” an extreme high for a show full of them.
The rest of the set was heavy on classics – “Are You a Hypnotist??,” “The W.A.N.D.,” and “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” before the usual encore of “Do You Realize?” finished off the show. They’re one of the more unique live shows you can catch these days, and while album wise they’ve begun to slip, the heart and soul of the Flaming Lips has not been dampened at all. As the main set closed, Coyne reminded everyone the most important word in our lexicon “LOVE” over-and-over again. Chill-inducing chants of “LOVE” repeatedly by everyone in the venue was the perfect send-off for the evening. It’s a spectacle, a party, and represents a break from the madness the world experiences daily.
For me, their recent stuff is their best. Embryonic onwards has been amazing. I saw them live a few years ago and it was similar, loads of tracks from Soft Bulletin/Yoshimi period. I was the opposite though, so disappointed not to hear new stuff.
Sounds like a great show!