[ATTENDED: March 4, 2017] The Flaming Lips
I saw The Flaming Lips back in 2015 and I was thrilled at how much bigger their show had become since 2000 when I saw them the first time. When I saw they were touring again for their new album and were playing The Fillmore, I knew that I had to see them again, and this time I needed Sarah to experience the show with me. She doesn’t know their music very well (she liked a couple of songs and actively disliked a number of them (mostly their noisy covers)–but I knew they wouldn’t play those). I couldn’t stop talking about that previous show, so I think her expectations were pretty high. And she told me they did not disappoint.
Having clipping. as the opening band was unusual because if there was ever a show I couldn’t imagine Sarah at it would be a loud, screechy vulgar hip hop band. But it served as a palate cleanser for The Flaming Lips.
I noticed that they added even more stuff to the previous set, but it was weird that they have all of this great stuff on stage, but then they tend to obscure it as well. Between the lights in front of the stage (how weird to see all those lights dangling in front of the performers) and the fog machines, sometimes you couldn’t even see the cool stuff going on. But it was all part of the sensory overload of the show.
Before the show started, Wayne and some of the other guys came out and checked some things. Its was funny to see Wayne walk out on stage and wave to us. He even shot some hand-held confetti cannons at us. But then they went back stage and it took another fifteen or so minutes for them to start.
In front of the stage were all of the strands hanging down. It was impossible to know what they were, until the music started and we saw that they were light strands. And as the music swelled, Wayne conducted the lights and the music. It was very cool.
And then they crashed open with “Race for the Prize.” I was surprised by this because they have a new album out and they opened with a very old song. In fact, they played 6 songs from The Soft Bulletin (not that I’m complaining, it’s my favorite of their albums). And, this proved to be a great opening because the song starts big and has even bigger moments where they can shoot off confetti cannons and throw balloons until there’s so so much going on, you almost forget the band is on stage. Now that’s how you open a show. And I think Sarah was instantly won over.
They jumped right into “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1” (it was practically like a greatest hits show already). For this show, Wayne brought out the new Fuck Yeah balloon. Last time I couldn’t image how they managed to get so many personalized balloons like this, but this time I saw that the letters came apart pretty easily (the “U” was bouncing around by us for a long time), so they must just have letters and affix them somehow.
And then there was a lengthy instrumental section and Wayne was nowhere to be seen. Until, that is, he appeared at the side of the stage (next to the gigantic mushroom) and they started playing “There Should Be Unicorns.” I had heard that he came through the audience being pushed on a gigantic light-up unicorn and he did! When Sarah and I originally planned our spot, I wanted to be a little closer to the middle, but I realized that we should have been a few people forward (maybe ten people forward) because Wayne went through the crowd about ten people in front of us and then looped around and went about ten people behind us. I’m not even sure if he sang more than “there should be unicorns, the ones with the purple eyes, not the green eyes.” It didn’t matter, it was such a cool moment. I only wish I’d gotten a better picture, but here you can see his inflatable rainbow wings, at least.
That was three songs full of unfathomable excitement and stage nonsense. So that meant they had to chill things down a bit. So they played a lengthy version of “Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung” (introduced by Steven in his high-pitched robotic voice). They played this when I saw them in Bethlehem and this is what I wrote:
After these upbeat songs, the band jumped into “Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung” A much darker (mostly) instrumental song. This song was all about the visuals (and Wayne’s gigantic gong that lit up when he hit it. And they jammed it for a pretty long time.
So yes, the fourth song meant that Wayne’s gong was brought to the stage. The problem was that they filled the stage with fog and we literally could not see his light-up gong at all. Couldn’t see much of anything actually. But the song was great–such a strong (mostly) instrumental.
And then they jumped back to Bulletin with “What is the Light?” When I saw this song 17 years ago, the thumping drum was like a hypnotic heartbeat. And the visuals were a close up of someone’s eye and with each beat the eye changed color. It was very cool. The visuals were nothing like that on this song–a gigantic inflatable rainbow filled the stage–but the song sounded amazing–it’s one of my favorites. That segued into the instrumental “The Observer.” This proved to be one of the stranger moments because it was the first time I’d ever seen Wayne Coyne play guitar. He played the “solo” melody of the song and did a reasonably good job.
Incidentally, Wayne had about four different outfits that he wore. He began in his suit. Then he switched to a gigantic furry coat from the “How??” video (I was sweating like crazy and have no idea how he wasn’t). Later he switched to a neon pink winter parka and orange gloves–again, holy cow, how was he not sweltering?
How, indeed. “How??” came next. It is a mellow song without a lot going on in the theater–a breather before what came next. Again, Wayne disappeared as the song jammed out. And then, there he was in the giant hamster ball (I wasn’t sure if he would do that too, what with the unicorn, but there it was).
And this time he came out to “Space Oddity.” Many of their on-record covers are weird and disorienting, but this cover is respectful and quite lovely. And it sounded great. Wayne sang the first two verses from the stage and then, once the middle section began, he pushed that ball into the crowd and was surfed to the back of the theater. Again, if we had managed to move to the middle a little more, we would have gotten to push the ball (as I did last time), but this angle allowed us a very close view as he passed by. Close enough that you can see his socks (right). And then he crawled back to the stage.
As the ball was stored away, the band began “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate another great song from Bulletin. The lights were very cool and, as this is one of my all-time favorite Lips songs, it was a highlight.
Then the strips of light were covered with animated butterflies and they played “The Castle.” It was just as pretty as on record.
Incidentally, in Bethlehem, I was able to see most of the performers okay. Although with the lights, the fog and with so much else going on (not to mention my being back kind of far), I couldn’t see anyone, really. I was able to see bassist Michael Ivins in his Flyers jersey and one of the two drummers, (Matt Duckworth, in green wig, who is beating the everliving crap out of his drums). Somewhere on that side is Jake Ingalls on guitar who is often seated playing with keyboards and whatever else he’s go on the floor in front of him. I only saw him a few times.
On the other side is percussionist Nick Ley (also in green wig), guitarist Derek Brown (I may have seen him once) and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Steven Drozd. Drozd is simply amazing to watch perform–he plays guitar and keyboard at the same time. He sings backing vocals and he has all kinds of gadgets and noisemakers and other things in front of him and he wears a cape! Sadly, we were on the far side from him and never really got to see him. Next time I see the Lips I promise I will sit in the front left just to watch him.
Throughout the show there was a gigantic disco ball hanging over the stage. They lowered it for “Are You a Hypnotist,” another great one from Bulletin and a total surprise. The ball came down next to Wayne and while it didn’t add a ton of drama. I feel like it could have been used better, but whatever because I did get this very cool photo (no filter) on the right.
They played one other song from Mystics, The W.A.N.D. ( I thought they’d play “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)” since it’s so catchy, but since it mentions Trump in the lyrics, I assume it has been removed from all live settings. I’m pretty sure it was during this song that the giant eyeballs came on stage. I didn’t even try to get a picture because there was so much fog in front of the stage.
And the show came to a close with the beautiful “A Spoonful Weigh a Ton.” Throughout the show, the band recreated some incredible sounds, but none were as impressive as when they hit some super deep bass notes. When the bass rumble crashes in on this song, you could feel it in your whole body. This song ends with the word “love.” And like last time, the word “Love” flashes on the screen, echoing from Wayne’s voice over and over: Love…Love…Love. It’s hard not to feel great while that’s going on.
Wayne and Steven came back for the encore. One of the few songs that Sarah knew by the band was “Waitin’ for Superman,” which I had put on a mix tape years earlier. I was stunned when I heard the opening piano chords of that song (which Wayne had said was an incredibly sad song, and the would need us t support them during it–Wayne was also wearing angel wings with lights in them). I could hardly see anything at this point, but I was so delighted to hear this stripped down version, that I had to take a video, just for the audio.
And they ended with the other song that Sarah knows well, “Do You Realize??” which is just such a great show-ender. Uplifting and beautiful, if not a little bittersweet. And that was that. And that was more than enough. I said to Sarah that they could have easily ended after the first song it was so intense. The show was about an hour and 45 minutes and it was such sensory overload that I felt like it was 3 hours (in a good way).
They played fifteen songs in total, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but many of them were really extended (especially when Wayne was off prepping for his next moment).
After I saw them last time I felt like I didn’t really need to see them again, but I enjoyed this show so much, and felt like Sarah did as well that I think if that as long as they keep coming around, we will keep going to see them. Maybe even bring the kids? Nah, probably not.
||New York (Irving Plaza) 2000
|Race for the Prize||The Abandoned Hospital Ship||Race for the Prize|
|Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1||Fight Test||The Gash|
|There Should Be Unicorns||She Don’t Use Jelly||The Spark That Bled|
|Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung||Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung||A Spoonful Weighs a Ton|
|What is the Light?||The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)||Lightning Strikes the Postman|
|The Observer||Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus With Needles||Feeling Yourself Disintegrate|
|How??||Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1||Sleeping on the Roof|
|Space Oddity||Feeling Yourself Disintegrate||The Spiderbite Song|
|Feeling Yourself Disintegrate||Vein of Stars||She Don’t Use Jelly|
|The Castle||Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die||What Is the Light?|
|Are You a Hypnotist||The W.A.N.D.||Waitin’ for a Superman|
|The W.A.N.D.||A Spoonful Weighs a Ton||When You Smile|
|A Spoonful Weighs a Ton||encore|
|The Abandoned Hospital Ship||Do You Realize??|
|Waitin’ for a Superman|
|Do You Realize?|