Flashing neon lights, clouds of smoke, and crowd-surfing unicorns, is this a scene from an imaginary planet, or a Flaming Lips show? Following the release of their fourteenth studio album, Oczy Mlody, on January 13th, Psychedelic Experimentalists The Flaming Lips promptly took to the road in support of the album on their There Should Be Unicorns 2017 Tour. Bringing their dream-like live show to the UK, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, and France, come the beginning of March, they landed back down in the USA for a line of shows across the country.
An additional date, following the initial tour announcement back in October, the village of Westbury, New York was ecstatic to welcome The Flaming Lips to The Space on Saturday, March 11th. A chilly Saturday evening, it would come only two days after the band wowed Terminal 5 in New York City, leaving many to question, would a second area show be as successful? Well, it was as fans flocked into the beautiful theater to bare witness to a healthy dose of The Flaming Lips greatest hits, few new gems, but nothing less than stunning visuals and heart-melting, soulful sounds.
Constantly changing their revolutionary sound and artfully sculpting new soundscapes, The Flaming Lips are a rare breed. Wayne Coyne and company have been turning Rock music on its head for over three decades now, pulling from and revamping the styles of legendary bands such as The Beatles and Pink Floyd. On a rather ordinary Saturday night on Long Island, The Flaming Lips offer something stark in comparison, they offer an appealing alternative to the harsh realities of the modern millennium with the unapologetic escapism. After all, what else could draw a multi-generational audience? A tightly packed crowd, ranging from twenty-somethings in a flashy purple unicorn costume to middle aged listeners, everyone was determined to find out.
As the audience began filing in continuously, the band’s revered opener, Clipping, began their set. An experimental Hip Hop group from Los Angeles, California, Clipping would not exactly be the first group that comes to mind when guessing an Oklahoman Psychedelic Rock band’s opener, yet they fit right into the crowd. Combining Experimental and Noise genres with the Rap stylings of Grammy Winning Daveed Diggs, Clipping harnesses a poetic and thoughtful quality that is sharply contrasted by digging beats and disturbing sirens.
Opening with “Inside Out,” early on in the set Diggs joked, “Does everyone have their Molly ready?” referring to the headlining act’s psychedelic quality. Then, it was on into more infectious sounds of their own with “Shooter,””Work,Work,” “Wriggle,” and “Body & Blood,” just to name a few. Entrancing the audience, they closed out with “Story 2” to a round of applause. On Thursday, March 16th, Clipping will be hosting their own headlining show up in Chicago, Illinois, but for others, they will remain on tour with Flaming Lips through April 4th to check out.
After nearly three minutes of Coyne carefully conducting Drozd through the measures of single notes, with the occasional input from the full band, the venue went silent. The crowd leaned in a little closer for what was to come next, but no one was prepared for what would happen next. Without hesitation, Wayne led the full band in on a “one, two, three, four…” as the venue exploded into full color. Confetti canons expelled heaps of glistening silver and purple as the stage radiated a spectrum of ever-changing hues. Full-sized balloons rained down from above, bouncing happily off the fingertips of one audience member to another. It truly felt like another planet and it was a complete assault on the senses. Billowing smoke filled the hall in the transition from one song to the next, otherwise marked by Coyne’s cathartic and intimate gestures of glee.
However, despite the Flaming Lips’ recently releasing Oczy Mlody, they largely stuck to their older material. Incorporating a handful of songs from the new album including “There Should Be Unicorns,” “How??,” and “The Castle,” it was all a perfect witches brew of potions carefully displaced in their hour and a half set. Additional classics such as “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1” was met with an outpour of audience participation, as the venue sang in unison word-for-word the bittersweet tune of the fictional heroine. Another favorite, “Pompeii AM Gotterdammerung,” was elevated by blinding strobe lights and clouds of smoke, leaving the audience seemingly isolated visually: it was just them and the music.
The night continued as Coyne donned a flamboyant outfit complete with a pair of pompom-adorned sequin pants and rainbow wings as he sat astride a plastic neon unicorn to perform the aforementioned “There Should Be Unicorns” while galloping through the audience on his steed. Then, of course, there was the chill atmosphere induced by “Are You a Hypnotist??” as well as the lofty set main set closer “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton.”
With so much to take in, the highlight of the show for many was The Flaming Lips’ sensational tribute to David Bowie, as the room exploded into song during this poignant and emotional moment. Coyne rolled bravely into the crowd, exemplifying the greatest form of audience participation if there ever was one: an artist physically being held up by his listeners. Despite performing Bowie classic “‘pace Oddity” from inside his human-sized hamster-ball whilst surrounded by ostentatious stage-props, the song was beautifully understated and Coyne executed the vocal as well as anyone who dared to cover Bowie could ever expect.
Visually and sonically breathtaking, The Flaming Lips are so much more than a gig to see live, they are one to be experienced. It is an utter feeling of euphoria to attend their surreal symphonies, and Coyne’s space-age carnival was a surreal journey from start to end. Offering up two encores, the first a three song journey including “Waitin’ for a Superman,” they rounded out the night with arguably their most popular track, “Do you Realize??”
Just by standing on the line outside The Space before even a note of music rang, one thing rang clear, this was not just a concert, it was an experience. Young attendees glued glistening rhinestones to the side of their faces, while a group of older women could be seen walking around with crowns of flowers. Countless others had some form of metallic face paint adorning their skin, while even others wore whimsical costumes. Finally entering the venue, the entire crowd gasped in awe as a wondrous mystery land unfolded. In enough words, the Alternative Rock vets everyone know as The Flaming Lips proved once again that not only is their approach to music unique, but their approach to performing is quite revolutionary.Photos by: Aintellin Photography