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Space Girl and Bunny Man bark, growl and chirp at the maestro as he conducts an audience-turned-orchestra loyal to his every command. "Can you be a wolf," the maestro sings, raising a hand to the rafters, prompting Space Girl and Bunny Man to howl back with the roaring audience's lonesome cry. The pair nods their helmet and ears, respectively, seemingly in approval, as the maestro pushes open his grey suit jacket and sings or suggests, "seems like you can be anything."
At the Flaming Lips intimate gig at the Montalban theater in Hollywood, part of MySpace's secret show series, anything seemed possible as frontman Wayne Coyne smashed cymbals, led a raucous revival sing-along, and pontificated on his 26 years fronting the far-out Oklahoma band.
Although the Easter Bunny in a jumpsuit (a.k.a Mark Romer) and Jetson's-styled space waitress (Vanessa Bonet, from fashion label Psycho Girlfriend) were the few suited up for the Lip's spaced-out set, the streamlined show seared without the circus-like antics the Lips typically employ.
Instead of blasting the crowd with a confetti cannon, the stage was blasted with fog and lights, as the band blasted out hard-edged cuts from their new album, Embryonic. The five song set showcased the album's rough rockers, propelled by the deep drone of Stephen Drozd's guitar work and Kliph Scurlock's drum assault.
Opening with the loud sonic wash of "Convinced of the Hex," the rolling snare and interlocked guitar marched with precision of a lock-stepped android army, while Coyne sang "That's the difference between us," like a drill sergeant. Without the usual flames or furry animals onstage--and sans Coyne's messianic walk across the audience in a plastic bubble--the pared-down group highlighted their tight musicianship, showing off the essence behind the band: the music. It was like Kiss with no make-up: no distractions, just pure rock. "Silver Trembling Hands" wavered from four-on-the-floor tightness to ethereal psychedelia reminiscent of Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine," and the spooky "See the Leaves," mounted a ceaseless attack of fuzz bass accompanied by Coyne's tightly wound vocals.
Then Coyne introduced a new idea: the sing along. Originally, on the album version of "I Can Be A Frog," Coyne posed an animal sound over the phone to Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O who would reciprocate her interpretations of a gila monster or a warrior Indian. Coyne asked the audience to fill in for Karen, urging Space Girl, Bunny Man, and the crowd to mimic jaguars, locusts, and helicopters to the best of their abilities. Coyne laughed and smiled as he heard the audience create sounds he couldn't anticipate. The finch sounded like monkey, and the monkey more like a crying baby. But the anarchy is what maestro Coyne tends to seek, as he did during the Boombox Experiments of the late 1990's.