A few weeks ago, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne stopped by the Belly Up to scope out the 450-seat venue. "I wanted to see how much of a Flaming Lips show [we can do] in this small spot here," Coyne said to the sold-out crowd just before starting the show. "And I thought, 'I don't know if we can fucking do anything.' But I was convinced by higher powers that we should do every fucking thing we can."
And so it was. The Lips crammed as much gear as they could on the small Belly Up stage and delivered a show on par with the kind of gigs they do for 10,000-person venues, including the confetti cannons, balloons, Coyne's giant laser hands, huge mirror balls, and the space bubble.
The only thing was, there wasn't quite enough room for the ball to fit between the lights and the crowd. So Coyne asked the people near the stage to get down on the floor. While the rest of band played "Sleeping on the Roof," Coyne got in the bubble, and a few minutes later it hit one of the overhead stage lights, sparks flew, and the bubble got punctured.
Despite the bubble being burst, it didn't get in the way of the Lips delivering a hell of a show that was nearly two hours long, half of which featured Embryonic material. Early in the set, the Flaming Lips ripped into vigorous takes on the aforementioned "Worm Mountain" and "Silver Trembling Hands." After "See the Leaves," Coyne put on his giant hands and shot green laser beams at the crowd while some folks shot red lasers back at him with pointers that were handed out before the show.
The early-'90s radio hit "She Don't Use Jelly" was damn awesome, as were cuts from 2006's At War With the Mystics, like "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song," "The W.A.N.D" and the early-Pink Floyd-esque "Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung," which guitarist/keyboardist Steven Drozd dedicated to anyone in the audience under the influence of LSD.
While there were quite a few psych-rock freakouts during the night, the Lips slowed things down on cuts like "In the Morning of Magicians," which Coyne said asked questions like, "Is to give love a waste? Is to give love a waste of energy, a waste of our time? Does love mean anything? Is love real? Does love even exist?"
Tunes like "Magicians" and a relaxed take on "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1" were gorgeous, but the group really shone on songs like the buoyant and joyous "Race for the Prize," which was absolutely brilliant, with confetti canons firing. Just before closing out the night with a superb take on "Do You Realize??," Coyne thanked the audience for being such good freaks.
"I'm still sorry about the space bubble thing," Coyne said. "But you'll go out into the world, and you'll tell people it was fantastic. It was magical. And we'll be the only ones who know it ripped on that light. But we don't care, do we? We don't care. I'm glad we got to shoot laser beams at you guys. I'm glad we fucking got to throw balloons at you. Shoot all this fucking confetti at you."
Right after that, it sounded like Coyne said something like, "Thank you for letting us destroy you, and thank for being so happy about it."
Seriously, how can someone not be happy after a Flaming Lips show?
Click through for Critic's Notebook and Setlist
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: While seeing the Flaming Lips at Red Rocks twice was an incredible experience, seeing them up close in an intimate venue like the Belly Up was nearly on par. Random Detail: One of Coyne's acoustic guitars looked like it had a see-through salad bowl over the sound hole. By the Way: Coyne talked about how he'd met the folks in the local group Vitamins on a recent trip to Denver and asked them to open for the Lips without hearing them. While he didn't see much of Vitamins' set, Coyne said, "They're very nice, creative, cool people. To my surprise and joy and satisfaction, they're a fucking cool band, too."
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The Flaming Lips 12.28.10 | Belly Up Aspen, CO Setlist
Sleeping on the Roof Worm Mountain Silver Trembling Hands She Don't Use Jelly Yeah Yeah Yeah Song In the Morning of Magicians I Can Be a Frog Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1 See the Leaves (Laser Hands) The Ego's Last Stand Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung Sagittarius Silver Announcement The W.A.N.D.
Race for the Prize Do You Realize??