Photos by Ian Doreian
Submitted for your perusal, a blend of rock and roll and science fiction fused together and performed by one of the most surrealistic bands in the modern establishment of rock and roll music: The Flaming Lips.
I arrived to the show early and spent a good two hours at the Paradise Rock Club (up the street from Boston University’s Agganis Arena) hanging out/drinking with the entourage of Soul Asylum and Fountains of Wayne, or so they said. They didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t hanging around to see Soul Asylum and going to see some dudes about the same age as them, packing an arena. Let’s face it, the name of the band on my ticket didn’t say Soul Asylum. It didn’t read Fountains of Wayne. It read: The Flaming Lips, and showtime was less than an hour away. I drank and paid up and wished everyone a fair night.
I, on the other hand was about to go get my mind blown.
I hate arenas, but I had general admission in the front section right in front of the stage-and it was free. It was how I’ve always wanted to see The Flaming Lips or any band for that matter: upfront and free.
At the opening of the show, we find our faithful timelord/rock and roll frontman, Wayne Coyne mounted front-center stage on top of some rounded metallic structure, propping him up above the rest of the members of the band. No matter where you found yourself in the arena, Wayne could be seen in his skin-tight iridescent space suit under a cool indigo light, cradling a baby doll strobed and spinning lights vigorously attacked the stage and the senses as the Lips began the set with “Look…The Sun Is Rising” of their latest The Terror.
“This next song is a very sad song” Wayne warns as they make their way into the albums title track, “The Terror,” a dark, driving, moody number and encouraging the audience to cheer when they feel it reaches its saddest moment, which no one really does but it was all the better to hear the band rather than crowd participation.
Where are the fuzzy characters and playful lights that once occupied the stage show of The Flaming Lips? Where is the big inflatable ball that we can expect Wayne to crawl inside of and visit the audience? What happened to Wayne’s white suit?
Why is the confetti black?
It all still exists on stage, but is unseen and it has all been replaced with duct tape, metallic eggs, and blinding fog. “The Terror” is alive and we, as loyal fans, are all immersed in it for good or ill. Although theirs is a presence of doom and darkness embedded in the concept of “The Terror,” The Lips perform songs like “The Wand,” “Race For The Prize,” and “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton,” reminding all of the fight against evil and to find the love that has been demonized by the absence of light.
One of the highlights of the night, among many, was the bands performance of “Virgo Self-Esteem Broadcast” into “Silver Trembling Hands” from 2009′s Embryonic, featuring eerie lead vocals from The Flaming Lips sound-tech maven and songwriter Steven Drozd.
I haven’t seen the Lips live since 2006 on the At War With The Mystics tour, so to hear some of these really experimental songs performed live was alluring and is testament to how much better they have gotten as a live band and songwriters. Some could argue that without all the psychedelic stage props, their live shows may not be as grand, but this current tour has debunked that theory. Coyne’s vocals were spot on and despite the dark theory of where the band’s psyche is on this album, they seemed very much alive and kicking.
Seen as how it was a show on a college campus, the crowd seem fairly young and confused. Sure there were plenty of fans and appreciators there, but many felt slighted half way through the set, getting fidgety, bored, and some confused.
“I hope they play that “Vaseline” song!” one girl says to her shirt-tucked boyfriend.
“Vaseline.” Isn’t that a Stone Temple Pilots song? Oh the “jelly” song. Yeah, sad how some have not embraced the band’s progression from that song. Thank hell that they didn’t waste the set list on that tune.
After a solid 11 tunes, the Lips had taken their audience on a journey to the center of their hearts and minds–well at least those who weren’t standing in line for a 8 dollar dixie cup of crap beer. It was like watching a rock opera from the doors of Doctor Who’s T.A.R.D.I.S. Although we all stood in our tracks, jaws left wide open, I had the sensation that I had just traveled through time and space in good company with good people. Their music and artistic direction is flawless. When it comes to making complete albums and live shows, the Flaming Lips still give a fuck. , however there are many in the audience that simply don’t.
As they even came back with an encore, as they enchanted the audience with a great version of “Do You Realize” and ended the night with the finale and one of The Terror’s most terrifying tracks, “Always There…In Our Hearts”
“What was up with their encore?” Some fella asks after the show while waiting for the painfully crowded Green Line train to arrive, “The last song was a bad move. They should have played the ‘Tangerine’ song.”
“Tangerine”? Isn’t that a Led Zeppelin song?, I wondered.
Why? Because you haven’t bought the new album or you just don’t like the recess the band has taken from their colorful and playful antics? You don’t like a little terror?
If rock and roll is your religion and your law, If you like great live shows, If you dig whole albums and have a boundless imagination, when the Flaming Lips come to town, see them. They will restore any notion you may have that rock music is dead, that bands don’t give a shit anymore, and overall that you don’t need to play your hit songs which many “fans” don’t even know by name because
it goes without saying the Lips don’t use jelly, Vaseline, or Tangerine to fill an arena. They use their imagination.