View more photos in the Flaming Lips slideshow.
Woodstock, schmoodstock. That was a one-time event. It rained, people were messed up on bad acid, and most of the performances, as evidenced by the new 6-CD Woodstock box set, sucked. And yet, and yet, every five years we get the same damned baby-boomer inculcation, a bullshit NPR/NBC/Rolling Stone propaganda fest telling us that this three day party was so transformational an event that it deserves anniversary celebrations.
Ho hum, another mindblowing Flaming Lips experience. Head exploding. Mind melting. Musically inspired. Joyous.
Not to go all generational on you, but we get the Flaming Lips nearly every summer. Unlike Woodstock, a once in a (self-important) lifetime event, we find meaning not by living in the past, but through the continual affirmation that is the Flaming Lips experience. Their show at the Greek last night was, like the dozens of other times we've seen them, remarkable.
West Coast Sound got an early tease on the evening when we ended up in the Greek Theatres' innards before the show. Down below, rows of Lips costumes and props filled the dressing room. Next door, Wayne Coyne was doing photo shoots and video interviews in anticipation of the upcoming release of the band's twelfth studio album, Embryonic. Up above backstage, jumbo red, yellow and orange balloons filled a room to make it look like the Wonka factory.
It was a nice little peak at the workings of the event, like seeing the Wizard of Oz running the machinery of his kingdom. And what a kingdom it was. Beginning with a high-intensity screen projection of a digital naked lady whose dancing was a graceful kind of sexy, soon her image sat and spread to reveal gaping chasm of bright light, out of which she birthed each member of the Flaming Lips, the Oklahoma City psych-rock band who have been blowing minds since 1983.
Where was the prime-time special on their 25th anniversary?
Embittered? Sure. We're just saying that the Flaming Lips have spread so much enlightened, experiential joy across America and the world, have impacted so many people over their quarter-century, and yet they are, to a certain degree, taken for granted. We're guilty of it, too. We've seen the band in many different incarnations, discovered them when they were on the Midwest punk circuit in the mid-80s, participated in a legendary boombox experience in the early 1990s, saw them during a headphone tour (they handed out FM radio receivers, on which the band had created a whole other layer of music that they played along to live). When the notion of seeing them at the Greek arose, we of course decided to go, but didn't think that much about the show in advance.
Probably just as well, because our lax attitude meant that we had diminished expectations, which, of course, meant that the adrenalin rush we got when the Lips broke into “Race for the Prize” to open the show was way way intense. Off to the races, indeed. (The less said about Ghostland Observatory, the better. We'll never understand their allure. And Stardeath and the White Dwarves, also from Oklahoma City, opened with an capable but unmemorable show, despite an excellent take on Madonna's “Borderline.”)
The jumbo balloons came out, bounced around the Greek for the duration of the show (the wind was blowing northwest, and the audience worked hard to keep them from drifting away), along with the typically inspired visual feast: video, strobes, confetti, fog, dancing creatures, more fog, more strobe, more confetti.
The Lips offered a rundown of music from throughout their career — though they tend to ignore the first five years of their existence. Last night they delivered themes and variations, played what the crowd wanted to hear without kowtowing. (See full set list below.) Our highlight, surprisingly, was the amazing new song “Convinced of the Hex,” a hard, mantra-esque space-jam that sounds like some weird collision of German krautrock and the Beatles' “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
But, really, does it come as any surprise that the Lips offered an epiphany? They do it all the time. That's what draws the diehards, what makes their shows not just concerts but experiences. These experiences take a lot of work to create, and the band continues to do it year in and year out. It's amazing what they do. It's not like they did one awesome thing 40 years ago and now repackage it every few years to milk a little more cash out of the cow. They keep going, and they do it with the purest of intentions. That's a really great thing.
Flaming Lips at the Greek Theatre, August 18, 2009
Untitled Vaginal Intro
Race For The Prize
Silver Trembling Hands
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
Enthusiasm For Life Defeats Internal Existential Fear
Convinced Of The Hex
Vein Of Stars
The Firebird Suite
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1
Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung
Do You Realize? (encore)