The Flaming Lips burned brightly last time I saw them at the Fox Theater, Oakland on October 1, 2010 when they played to a sold-out crowd of initiated followers. The music of this band is a jarring combination of funk, progressive, noise, and psychedelic music, that may invoke a dreamy state in the listener. Their most recent release at that time, Embryonic, is a relentless, percussive masterwork that was not particularly featured in the set list at the Fox. Instead the band pulled more evenly from material released over the last dozen years, probably because this show fell late in the tour.
In general, there is a lot to applaud in a Flaming Lips show:
- Front man Wayne Coyne climbing inside his clear plastic ball rolling through the audience
- Tons of confetti delivered via colorful cannons, showering down on the audience along with a multitude of giant balloons
- A dozen amatuer dancers – boys stage left, girls right – posing and shimmying to the sounds
- Wayne donning a giant pair of hands containing palm lasers shooting out in all directions
- Beautiful light pallet with acid-house projections on clever rear video delivery system
- Talented musicians that improve on the studio recordings with their aggressive live delivery
All of this should add up to an absolutely amazing entertainment spectacle. And it does. But somehow this night’s show just fell a bit short for me. Loved the evening, but some minor complaints:
- Wayne too often extols the crowd to cheer louder
- Too much time is spent wandering the stage and preparing for the next track, breaking the flow of the show
- The dancers, hands and bubble are great staples, but new innovations would help the converted
Having said all that, for anyone uninitiated in the ways of the Lips, the show would be an exceptional experience. And make no mistake, once the band gets focused on the delivery of their most forceful, driven work, they are on top of their game as alt-rock pioneers. For this two time attendee, I will be excited to see them again with some additional set pieces and a tighter delivery so as to take the heat a few degrees higher. Seems after the intervening years, and now with a new EP, the next tour will be the right time.