Sure, Jack the Rabbit is an arrogant guy.
But King Kong ain't got shit on me...I can explain my reasoning in one sentence: The Flaming Lips are the best live show in music today. Don't believe me? Then my only guess (and correct one at that) is you've never had the pleasure of seeing them in person.
Now I'll clarify my statement by emphasizing the word SHOW. I didn't say they're the best artists, songwriters, or wearers of designer shades and skull caps. However, a live Lips show is like entering a circus for adults and I couldn't have been happier.
One of the cool things about the Lips is that they all help set up their equipment between the opener and their own show. No pretentiousness, no arrogance (so not your typical KTTU band). Wayne Coyne, the lead singer, was the only one to leave the stage before the start of the best opening performance I've ever seen.
While the band set up, a few roadies were handing out laser pointers to the entire audience. Laser wars broke out as people fired beams across the venue at unsuspecting patrons, creating a sense of community that was so important to the show.
Not very long after, Steven - guitarist and keyboardist, Michael - bassist, and Kliph - drummer - started playing...and that's when it happened. Eight girls came running out from stage left wearing green alien masks and futuristic purple dresses, while another eight Santa Clauses emerged stage right. Superman, Captain America, one of the Incredibles, and a Trojan-like character also made appearances as the crowd and stage members danced and cheered wildly. Wayne began to walk out wearing two giant hands a la The Science of Sleep, which he proceeded to use to hug each group of dancers and then the rest of the band individually. As "Race for the Prize" picked up, I started to feel lighter and almost what I would expect an out-of-body experience to feel like (seriously, I don't do drugs, but this would definitely be the show to do it at...). As Wayne got to the mic and started to sing, the night exploded. Laser pointers, erupting confetti cannons, massive yellow balloons, and smoke filled the air as they played. It was the trippiest time I've ever had, and it was amazing.
When I die, I'm sure I'm going to be scared to enter the afterlife, but if I have any say, I want to enter heaven with the Lips playing a show. I was actually a little worried that I was dead about halfway through the first song, because if I could've imagined an orientation/welcome to the Pearly Gates, this would've been it. I can't explain the feeling much more than that, but luckily I was very much alive and enjoying the mayhem around me as I jumped and danced and sang with a couple thousand other people.
The best part of the night was when they turned out the lights on the stage. Immediately everyone shone their laser pointers on Wayne as he finished his guitar part, illuminating him in a red 3-D ball of moving points (remember the old Nintendo system that failed miserably, where you look into the goggles at the red 3-D lines? something like that...). It was a cool moment, especially since the lingering smoke from the smoke machine and cigarettes caused the air above us to turn into a web of red lasers, blanketing the audience in a ceiling of red warmth.
In a related, but less spontaneous moment, Wayne asked everyone to shine their lasers at him just as the lights went out and as he picked up a huge mirror. The reflecting beams were cast back over everyone, creating a tangle of light throughout the club. It was a sweet effect that somehow made everyone seem interconnected at that time and place.
One thing that really stood out for me was how much the band embraced the crowd's craziness. After setting such an example themselves, they really took to whatever happened with the greatest of ease. For me, at some point having laser pointers flashed in my eyes repeatedly all night would get me a little pissed off. Not these guys. They welcomed it more than anything.
The night slid by as they played all the old favorites as well as some new ones from their great album At War with the Mystics. Slightly disappointing, but cool nonetheless, they did a toned down and slower version of "Yoshimi vs. the Pink Robots" that the crowd sang to along with Wayne (I should probably note that Steven only spoke in a high pitched Mickey Mouse voice all night to say "thanks" and other assorted phrases).
Highlights included "Fight Test," "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song," "Free Radicals," a rare "Riding to Work in the Year 2025," a brief cover of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," and my favorite, "Do You Realize?" (look for this in an upcoming post). But the real treat came in the final song of the encore when they branched from their normal set list to play a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Moonlight Mile." As the song ended and Wayne walked off the stage, the rest of the band held the tunes until the big, bright moon projected on the screen behind them zoomed out until it was nothing more than a black screen.
A classy way to finish a crazy show and completely satisfying. Check out "Race for the Prize" and let me know what song is playing for you as you head through the big gates in the sky.
The Flaming Lips -
*Race for the Prize (remix).mp3
For more songs, including my all-time favorite "Do You Realize?" check out their myspace page here.
Set List (in picture form):
*big thanks to everyone at the Flaming Lips message boards for the pics!*