Shock and awe

Share on Nextdoor

Most of the set focused on material from the Lips’ two most recent albums, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and last year’s At War With the Mystics, although they did dip back to their ’90s mini-hit “She Don’t Use Jelly” and open the show with “Race for the Prize” from 1999’s The Soft Bulletin.

Coyne may be the grooviest dude on the planet. Thin and rumpled and proudly sporting a thatch of gray hair, he plays the mellowed-out ringleader, smiling constantly, communing with the audience, kind of like an extremely hip next-door neighbor. Twenty minutes before show time, he was out on stage tweaking sundry gadgets and occasionally hurling a handful of confetti into the audience. Coyne also has developed some animated rock moves to go along with the cornucopia of visuals that surround him.

When the band emerged around 9:30 p.m. to a synthesizer fanfare, helpers positioned in the upstairs walkway pushed a couple dozen large yellow balloons onto the crowd. Then came the confetti cannons. And the smoke. Coyne picked up his favorite toy, a tube-like gun that shot streamers into the crowd.

Everyone went nuts.

Funny, though — after the initial thrust of mayhem and “Race for the Prize,” the audience response was surprisingly muted. It was if they were had just experienced a very agreeable attack of shock and awe and needed a minute to catch their collective breath.

The band, too, had to find its legs. Perhaps too much of the early set fell into the spacey, mid-tempo realm. For a spell, the show was pleasant but not all that exciting. The intensity built gradually then hit a transcendent sequence with “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song.” The tune’s schoolyardish “yeah-yeah-yeahs” come off as unnecessarily silly on the recorded version but seemed perfectly appropriate amid the Lips’ concert/circus. The tune really hit full tilt during its infectious chorus, when the crowd gleefully sang along with the lines “With all your power/ What would you do?”

For all its whimsy, the Flaming Lips show had an underlying political message, that of peace, love and self-realization. You could’ve dropped off a few multi-color busloads of actual 1969 hippies at Jannus and they would’ve dug what they were witnessing (although they’d have probably hoped for more guitar solos).

In concert, a few seemingly simplistic lines — “Do you realize … that everyone you know … someday will die" — take on new meaning amid the Lips’ dizzying utopia: Your family and friends will not always be with you, so appreciate them when you can — and let them know. Coyne has little use for cynicism, and if there’s an underlying irony to the multi-sensory hi-jinx, I couldn’t detect it.

Here's Senior Editor Eric Snider's review of Saturday's Flaming Lips show:

Flaming Lips deliver music, spectacle, message — and lots of confetti

By Eric Snider


Photo by Phil Bardi; click on the picture to see others.

When a team of archaeological diggers in the year 3521 unearths Jannus Landing, you can be assured they’ll find confetti. It will be there courtesy of a rock concert held on April 14, 2007, when a band from Oklahoma City called The Flaming Lips let loose dozens of cannon-blasts of the stuff.

The Lips extravaganza — the group’s first Bay area appearance in 13 years, and the first that could qualify as a true event — goes down as one special night in the history of a venue that’s been largely known for no-frills productions. Frontman Wayne Coyne and his pranksters rolled out a smoking megaphone, roadies in superhero costumes, a half-dozen side-stage Santa Clauses (countered on the other side by dancing space girls), an ozone layer of dry-ice smoke, lasers and a large video screen flashing hallucinatory images (and real-time close-ups of Coyne’s face caught by a minicam).

All of this would’ve been of little consequence, however, if The Flaming Lips failed to deliver the musical goods. I’m glad to report that the trio (aided by a hired-gun drummer) ably re-created the densely layered sonic dreamscapes of their albums and goosed it with heightened energy and an improvisatory looseness that never once made the show seem scripted.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.