Concert Reviews

Over the Weekend: The Flaming Lips at Red Rocks

The Flaming Lips, Explosions in the Sky, Stardeath & White Dwarfs
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Sunday, August 23, 2009

Better than: The last time the Flaming Lips played Red Rocks

I know it's not the most manly thing to admit, but I was almost cried a few times during the Flaming Lips set last night. I mean, hell, it's was kinda of hard not to cry once the the band kicked into the triumphant "Race for the Prize" with canons blasting confetti all over the place and huge balloons flying over the crowd. Goddamn, it was beautiful.

This was right after Lips frontman Wayne Coyne wiggled into the saggy bag of what would become the infamous hamster ball that he usually rolls around during the beginnings of shows. Facing the LED screen and with hands stretched up, Coyne waited for the ball to inflate, pressing against the top of it. It was a truly bizarre image, especially when an image of a woman spreading her legs appeared on the screen and Coyne's arms were pointed directly toward her crotch.

It was even a bit more weird when the rest of band poked through a slit in the LED screen and walked down a ramp to the stage. Sure, it's a stretch, but it was like the guys were walking through a giant vagina, which probably wouldn't been so obvious had the woman spreading her legs been on the screen a minute before this all happened.

But that was just the beginning of the mind fuckery, which the Lips have mastered over the years. Coyne and crew know how to make a show a spectacle and a visceral experience. It's the kind of thing that spreads around in your brain like syrup and sticks on pieces of it. You don't need drugs, man, the show itself is what mushrooms wish they could be.

With groups of guys wearing furry white costumes on the north side of the stage, a group of girls wearing white outfits and furry hats on the south of the stage and the rotating cast of other oddities appearing on stage, it was always a visual banquet of sorts.

While it's easy to get distracted by the barrage of visuals, the Lips delivered a killer set musically as well, tapping into material from the last few albums as well as playing two new cuts from their forthcoming double album, Embryonic, due in October. One of the new cuts, "Silver Trembling Hands," was epic as was the "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" that followed it. After a slow take on "Fight Test," Coyne introduced the Beach Boys-esque "Bad Days" by saying it was about his best days were those spent daydreaming about what could be.

Since a ton of laser pointers had been handed out before the show, a lot of folks had been pointing the red beams all over the place and at the band for most of the set, but it wasn't until "Vein of Stars" that it became clear what they were really for. During the song, which Coyne dedicated to openers Explosions in the Sky, the stage went dark, a message appeared on the screen to shine their beams. It was surreal seeing hundreds of red beams bouncing around on the stage and Coyne reflecting the light back at the audience.

After closing a phenomenal set with a "She Don't Use Jelly," the Lips came back with stellar take on "Do You Realize??" for the encore. The confetti canons fired out blasts of colored paper rectangles a good thirty or so rows up. And seeing it rain confetti over red rocks during one of the Lips most beautiful tunes, well, it was magic, man. Truly magic. And I almost cried.

Personal Bias:
Seeing the Lips live has made me appreciate the hell out of these guys.  
Random Detail:
The Lips are one of the only big national bands that I can of that come and do their own soundcheck right before the show and don't leave it to the roadies.  
By the Way
: Explosions in the Sky and Stardeath and White Dwarfs both delivered solid sets. 


Set List:

Race for the Prize
Silver Trembling Hands
Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
Fight Test
Bad Days
Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear
Convinced of the Hex
Vein of Stars
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung
The W.A.N.D.
She Don't Use Jelly

Do You Realize??

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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon