The Flaming Lips daze The Pageant


The Flaming Lips are on their third decade of mainstream success, a feat that has not been celebrated as much as it should be. Though they are “old” by music standards, they have shown no signs of slowing down, as made evident by Sunday’s show at The Pageant. In stark opposition to the many bands that fall into a complacent mentality of “playing the hits,” the Flaming Lips have been just as innovative in the past decade as they were in their first years of existence. They are promoting their excellently weird new album “Oczy Mlody” on this tour, but always have a new project on the horizon. Collaborating with everyone from Henry Rollins to Miley Cyrus, making tripped out tributes to “Sgt. Pepper” and “Dark Side of the Moon” and still being one of the best live acts in music are simply commonplace for The Flaming Lips.

Though none of these collaborators or absurd covers appeared on Sunday, their jaw-dropping live show was brought along in tow, and awed the sold out crowd. Before this, however, Los Angeles punks Cherry Glazerr took the stage for a raucous set. Riding high off of an extraordinary amount of coverage at this years SXSW festival, the band immediately justified the hype created at the fest. Cherry Glazerr ripped through tracks one after the next, each song raising the intensity more than the last.

The paint on their faces seemed to signal that these were no ordinary punks. Their sound mixes the L.A. punk sound of legends such as X and T.S.O.L. with the electronic synth vibes of Tame Impala, resulting in a sound that can only be Cherry Glazerr. Though a 45-minute set might be entirely too long for many punk acts, the crowd found itself asking for more by the end of it.

The Flaming Lips then appeared after a short break, bringing confetti cannons to life with the opening notes of “Race for the Prize”, an instant downpour of happiness in the form of small pieces of paper. Simultaneously dozens of giant balloons appeared, bouncing around the crowd as Wayne Coyne shot even more confetti into the crowd. This moment, in which all these moving parts happened in an instant, indicated perfectly the wild, magic-filled ride that the Flaming Lips were going to take the crowd on.

The high-energy opening of “Prize” was immediately followed up by another fan favorite, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1” off of the album of the same name. The robot fighting Yoshimi had the crowd grinning from ear to ear, singing at the top of their lungs, all the while still dancing in a sea of confetti and balloons. The LED vines and backdrop projected a burst of colors at all times.

As if these visuals were not enough, there were unicorn rides, dancing inflatable characters, costume changes and hamster balls incorporated throughout the night. None of these seemed to be a shtick, as they often would with other artists. It felt entirely necessary that they be incorporated into the show, pieces of the puzzle that created the atmosphere that can only be a Flaming Lips concert.

The set took the crowd on an adventure through all of the band’s albums and sounds. New tracks such as “How??” and “There Should Be Unicorns” take the experimental ideas to the fringes, a far cry from the older, wider-appeal of “She Don’t Use Jelly” and “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song.”

Regardless of which type of track The Lips played, the fans in attendance could not get enough. Tears in eyes were a common site throughout the show, especially in encore closer “Do You Realize??” Preceding the track, Coyne briefly talked about the importance of the crowd being as engaged and loud as possible. “Some people in the audience tonight are feeling a profound sadness, and they’ve come here to escape that for a night.” He continued “This laughing, screaming and joyous rumble is all important. That sound is truly the greatest sound in the world. Remember the screams. Continue to laugh and scream and have the greatest time of your life.” How could a crowd not be emotional after a riveting statement such as that?

Though the entire set was riddled with highlights, two moments stood out amongst the rest. The first came halfway through the set, Coyne had a hamster ball blow up around him as the opening notes to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” began to play. Acknowledging Bowie’s innovation and uniqueness, The Lips paid tribute in the most fitting fashion by being as weird and incredible as possible. It worked to perfection, and having a packed venue scream “This is Ground Control to Major Tom” is something that cannot be topped by much.

The second moment came at the last song of the main set, “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton.” The track is a deep cut off of 1996’s “The Soft Bulletin” album, but is one of the finest Flaming Lips songs ever crafted. With a simplistically beautiful melody about the density of celestial bodies, it is quintessential Flaming Lips. As the final note struck, Coyne sang “The sound they made was love.”

Similarly, one might say that the Flaming Lips’ sound can be described as exactly that, love.

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