THE FLAMING LIPS + PRIMUS at RED ROCKS | 8/3/11
"This will probably go down as one of the greatest shows at Red Rocks -ever
!" So declared Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne as part of his introductory rundown on what would be happening over the course of the evening before the band kicked into Pink Floyd's
While it might not have been the greatest show Red Rocks has ever seen, Coyne and company delivered a hell of a concert that was insanely intense at times and otherworldly at others, as Lips shows generally tend to be. The Lips don't just "play" shows; they're full-on visceral experiences. And band's take Dark Side of the Moon, which was interspersed with songs and video from The Wizard of Oz -- a movie that has been famously linked with the album -- was utterly surreal at times.
After the heartbeat thump of "Speak to Me" with visuals of a beating heart interspersed with Judy Garland's face as Dorothy flashed back forth to the beat on the LED screen behind the stage, the members of the band came out of a slit in the in the screen, as they did at their Red Rocks show two years ago on the Embryonic tour.
Shortly thereafter, Coyne stepped into his space bubble, and as it inflated, the band played what sounded like an instrumental version "Eclipse" from Dark Side of the Moon. Before the show, Coyne asked the audience to help him try to get to the middle of the venue in his space bubble, and the crowd happily complied, hoisting him up a good forty or fifty rows near the middle of the venue, before ushering him back down to the stage.
After Coyne made it back down to the stage, the Lips went into a glorious and over the top rendition of "Over the Rainbow," which had the sold-out throng chiming in on the chorus. Confetti was shot into the crowd. Among other Wizard of Oz nods, there were groups of gals on each side of the stage dressed up as Dorothy, along with a few guys dressed as other characters from the movie.
After a fairly faithful take on "Breathe," Steven Drozd did some far-out screaming during "On the Run." "Time" was pretty damn epic with heavy fog billowing from the stage and a huge clock with hands spinning fast on the LED screen. Later in the song, there were images of sunset while the fog was still heavy, almost evoking the acid-tripping scene in Apocalypse Now.
The thing about Lips shows is that while it's fun to take smoke a bunch of weed (there were massive amounts being smoked last night), eat mushrooms and drop acid during Lips concerts, the shows can sometimes be surreal enough to where you can experience similar effects being stone sober.
But with all the Wizard of Oz stuff going on and the psychedelic graphics being projected, a little extra push with some other substance would have undoubtedly pushed you into a completely bizarre place, especially when you hear Coyne singing "We're Off to See the Wizard." After "We're Off to See the Wizard," the Lips went into their instrumental laser interlude, where Coyne put on his giant hands that shot out green lasers while a mirror ball reflected laser beams all over the stage.
Dressed in a gold skin tight outfit with translucent wings attached and wearing a green wig, Lizzy Allen of local act Vitamins came out to fully belt it out on "Great Gig in the Sky." Allen, who's sat in with the Lips on other Dark Side of the Moon gigs, seriously sounded amazing. Before going into "Money," Coyne said: "Money can change people for the worst. Money corrupts all good things. But it also talks about all the cool shit you can do with money." During the song Coyne threw out giant white balloons filled with money.
"This is the scene where Dorothy is being held by the Wicked Witch of the West and the Lion and the Scarecrow and the Tin Man and Toto rush those weird green guards, steal their uniforms and go and rescue Dorothy," Coyne said just before the Lips played the tune, which they dedicated to Primus, and oddly enough the rendition kind of evoked the patented sound of the co-headliners. Just before an expansive and sprawling version of "Us and Them," Coyne said, "It makes us think what the fuck does it all mean.I wish I knew because if I knew I would tell you. I think it's something in this next song."
As the night came to the end, the Lips threw in one more Wizard of Oz song, which Coyne said that everybody thinks they know the words to this song, but the minute that you sing it on your own you realize that you don't really know all the words" and then started "If Only Had a Brain."
After rounding out the Dark Side of the Moon, the band came back for just one encore, "Do You Realize??" While the Lips played, multiple canons shot confetti a good twenty or thirty rows into the crowd, making for an magnificent way to close out a hell of a night.
Earlier in the night, Primus, who formed around the same time as the Flaming Lips in the mid-'80s, delivered a solid co-headlining set and got many fist pumping and people jumping up and down early in the set with cuts like "Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers" and "Tommy the Cat." Original drummer Jay Lane, who spent many years away from Primus performing with Rat Dog and Furthur, re-joined the trio last year and his playing sounded like it was at a completely different level then when he first played with the group.
Bassist and frontman Les Claypool and guitarist Larry LaLonde brought their A-game as well, especially on cuts like "My Name is Mud" and "Over the Falls." Describing this current jaunt as the "guinea pig tour," Claypool said the trio was trying out new material, including "Lee Van Cleef," obviously a nod the actor who appeared in many western, including The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
Bookended by two inflatable astronauts, which looked like the vintage MTV space guys, Primus also took advantage of the Flaming Lips' LCD screen and used abstract visuals that moved and changed in synch with whatever the band was playing, sort of like an older version of the iTunes Visualizer.
Personal Bias: This was my third time seeing the Lips at Red Rocks and just the combination of the band and the venue is damn near magical.
By the Way: There weren't as many people dressed up as at previous Red Rocks shows. (See our 20 Best Dressed Flaming Lips Fans slide show)
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Random Detail: The group of middle-aged bikers standing next me were fully digging the Lips' set.