Flaming Lips to perform defining album ‘Soft Bulletin' live for New Year's Eve

The Flaming Lips will play their 1999 album “Soft Bulletin” from start to finish in annual New Year's Eve show in Oklahoma City.
BY GENE TRIPLETT etriplett@opubco.com Published: December 31, 2010
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In an undisclosed rehearsal space somewhere in Bricktown, probably not far from the alley that's named after them, The Flaming Lips have been earnestly relearning songs from the album that redefined them as a band going into the 21st century.


1999's “The Soft Bulletin” already is considered a contemporary classic in the experimental pop idiom, right up there with works such as Pink Floyd's “The Dark Side of the Moon,” a profound influence on the Lips, who covered that 1973 diamond in its entirety after midnight last New Year's Eve at Cox Convention Center.

Tonight, same time, same place, Oklahoma City's masters of the neo-psychedelic rock universe will perform their own album masterpiece from start to finish, live onstage for the first time ever.

And to hear Wayne Coyne tell it, this year's musical leap is every bit as daunting as last's.

“You know, some of the songs we've never played (live) before,” the Lips leader said during a break in show preparations last week.

“So it's kind of thrilling from a musical standpoint, but also kind of nerve-wracking from a musical standpoint, 'cause it's difficult music. I don't know, some people wouldn't know ‘The Soft Bulletin' that much, but some of the tracks are just, they're these humongous, strangely played (songs).”

Having already taken broad steps into the realm of the untried and outrageous with 1997's “Zaireeka,” an album made up of four discs designed to be played in synchronization on four different players, the Lips took another giant stride into a wide, wild world of symphonic and melodic eccentricities, a world of skewed musical beauty that was light years beyond the punk- and noise-pop territory where they'd begun.

“When we were doing ‘The Soft Bulletin,' I mean like we do all our records, you don't consider can you really play this stuff (live). You just make music any way you can (in the studio) and get on with it,” Coyne said.

So, to sonically bolster the onstage lineup tonight, the Lips are bringing guest multi-instrumentalist Ray Suen (The Killers) onboard, turning the band into a sextet when you count frontman Coyne, multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd, bassist Michael Ivins, drummer Kliph Scurlock and newest member Derek Brown, a local all-purpose player who's toured with The Starlight Mints, Liz Phair, Steve Burns and The Chainsaw Kittens, among others.

Brown also serves as Business Development Center manager for the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma, established by Lips manager Scott Booker.

Tonight's show will open at 8:30 with Stardeath and White Dwarfs, fronted by Wayne's nephew, Dennis Coyne, before the Lips take the stage for their regular set, followed at midnight by the “Soft Bulletin” performance.

“I believe I'm gonna go over to the Thunder game at halftime and then tell everybody to come on over to the Cox Center when they get done, and probably have a special ticket price for the people that come in later,” Coyne said. “That's just to kind of include everybody. ... And if you're loaded at the Thunder's game, you only have to walk 20 feet to go to a Flaming Lips show.”

As for “The Soft Bulletin” late show, fans can expect note-perfect readings of the album's most popular tunes, including the exhilaratingly anthemic “Race for the Prize” and the heart-meltingly hopeful “Waitin' for a Superman,” along with more obscure and complex numbers such as the dreamlike “Slow Motion”; Coyne's moving, autobiographical message of friendship to his partners Drozd and Ivins, “The Spiderbite Song”; and the sublimely trippy “Buggin'.”

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The Flaming Lips New Year's Eve Freak-Out

Special guests: Stardeath and White Dwarfs.

When: 8:30 tonight.

Where: Cox Convention Center, 1 Myriad Gardens.

Tickets: Online at wimgo.com, Ticketmaster.com or coxconventioncenter.com; Suncoast, FYE or Homeland stores; or by phone at (800) 745-3000.

Quotable
“There was this strange mixture of very vulnerable and yet very brave at the same time. And you know, art and music allows that. Because you really just go into your deepest emotions and fears, and that's where your music comes from.”
— Wayne Coyne on the writing and recording of “The Soft Bulletin”

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