As Wayne Coyne held the teeming masses in his giant, laser-shooting prosthetic hands at the Flaming Lips' Friday night concert at the Zoo Amphitheatre, he and the band proved that there is no such thing as “just another Flaming Lips concert.” The free show will likely stand out in fans' minds for the awe-inspiring visuals and Coyne's emotional performance, but also because this band was tight, completely in control and performing as if they are ready to ascend to a new level.
After opening sets by New Fumes and Stardeath and White Dwarfs, which performed a stunning cover of the title track of King Crimson's “In the Court of the Crimson King,” Howard Pollack of Innervisions took the stage. This was the final show produced by Innervisions at the Zoo Amphitheatre, a venue that Pollack first began managing and promoting in 1978, and before the Lips performed, Pollack invited his staff and family on stage to thank them, and the audience, for their support.
But then, as crew members put the final touches on the Lips' setup and readied the confetti cannons, Pollack returned to the stage, with Coyne, and told the audience there were no barriers, no pass checks and no reason to stay back on the green. This would not be a concert — this was going to be a party. And with that, people packed into the pit at the lip of the stage as guitarists Derek Brown and Steven Drozd, bassist Michael Ivins and drummer Kliph Scurlock, all wearing Halloween makeup, each peeled back the fiber-optic curtain hanging in front of their equipment and greeted the audience. The crowd-surfing began almost immediately as the audience surged forward.
Then came Coyne's traditional entrance in his inflatable “hamster ball.” But as Coyne rolled over the audience, he was joined by a half-nude woman in her own inflatable bubble, the two enthusiastic exhibitionists rolling and bouncing against one another before returning to the stage. It was a new twist on a reliably exciting event in Flaming Lips concerts, and it was the first of many instances in which the Lips visibly and audibly changed their game.
Whether the band was leading the audience through a boisterous singalong of “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” or downshifting into tender, stripped-down performances of “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell” and “Waitin' For a Superman,” the Flaming Lips were performing with a level of energy and musical passion that was ultimately more striking that the video loops, lasers and confetti storms. Arguably, the band reached its zenith on “Drug Chart,” a song released last year on a USB drive encased in a “gummy skull.” The band accompanied the song's harrowing lyrics about drug use and disillusionment with some of their most hauntingly beautiful music in years.
‘Do You Realize??'
The Flaming Lips closed the show with “Do You Realize??” and performed the song with uncommon grace and power. Fans are used to Coyne and the band opening the song slowly before playing it much as it was recorded on 2002's “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” then decelerating again. But Coyne seemed to linger on the lyrics and seemed visibly moved while singing “Do you realize/ that you have the most beautiful face?” and the band was sharp, exceptionally engaged. “Do You Realize??” is one of the group's most immediately identifiable songs, but the Flaming Lips played it as if it were a new song they wanted everyone to hear with fresh ears. If this is how the Flaming Lips are approaching the familiar songs that over 10,000 fans wanted to hear on Friday, it only creates anticipation for the new Flaming Lips album that will arrive next year.