Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne led the usual assault of balloons, confetti, a unicorn, psychedelic lights and, yes, a super-sized bubble to energize fans who were more than ready to revel. Review, photos.
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
It was nuts.
I’ll prove it. Here are some of the magnificently ridiculous (ridiculously magnificent?) things that occurred during the two-hour, near-sellout concert:
• It is interesting that a band as theatrical as the Flaming Lips completely eschews the lowest-hanging of all performative fruits which is to take the stage in a dramatic fashion when the lights go down. Lead singer Wayne Coyne’s version of this is to stroll onstage with the house lights still up to deliver a well-argued monologue about the fundamental absurdity of dramatic stage entrances. He had on an eyepatch and a giant dollar-sign bling chain. The six-member band took their places behind him, mostly wearing capes. It was only anticlimactic by the group’s own standards; the first time I saw them, back in the mid-2000s, they emerged onstage by climbing out of a giant birth canal.
• Immediately following this deconstructive endeavor, the band launched into “Race For the Prize,” whereupon cannons blasted confetti throughout the room, giant balloons materialized (source unknown), columns of haze arose from either side of the stage, Coyne fired paper streamers throughout the venue and an enormous screen behind the stage broadcast all manners of overstimulating eye candy.
• Yoshimi, inevitably, battled the pink robots. In the second song of the set, said battle commenced. As the Lips teased the opening chords of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” from the 2002 album of the same name, a hand brought onstage a set of balloons that spelled out “F— Yeah Grand Rapids.” Imagine being the local balloon shop employee who took that order.
ANIMALS, ANGEL WINGS AND A HAMSTER BALL
• Coyne was then joined by three people in giant inflated animal costumes. One was an amphibian, another was a starfish and the third appeared to be a carp. All were wearing human clothing — the carp, curiously, was dressed in a captain’s hat and nautical outfit. Unpack this as you wish. Per usual, Yoshimi, who had indeed taken her vitamins, defeated those evil-natured robots, even though they were programmed to destroy us. The party continued.
• The Lips next performed a song from their new album, “Oczy Mlody,” with the title “There Should Be Unicorns,” which is a hard statement to argue with. To convince any unicorn skeptics in the room, Coyne sang while sitting atop a unicorn-mobile that several delighted-looking crew members pushed around the general-admission floor. Coyne did this while wearing an inflatable set of rainbow-colored angel wings, as one does.
• The next song, “Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung,” strongly recalled pre-“Dark Side” Pink Floyd, a connection underscored by strobe lights, an enormous gong and, if you knew what was good for you, hopefully not mushrooms. The Flaming Lips are commonly thought of as a good band to see after consuming hallucinogens, but that seems redundant.
• Anyway, as Coyne reached the apex of “What Is the Light?,” a standout from the band’s classic 1999 album “The Soft Bulletin,” a giant inflatable rainbow rose from the stage behind him.
• You might be wondering by now: Did he get in the giant hamster ball? He did! In the 15 years or so since the Lips morphed from ’90s one-hit wonders to oddball art-rock heroes to the highlight of every outdoor music festival that has ever taken place, Coyne’s greatest bit of showmanship has been to climb inside a clear plastic sphere and stride atop the crowd. Wednesday’s version of this did not disappoint, as Coyne, held aloft by fans toward the back of the room, performed a rousing cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” a song upon which the Lips may have based their entire personae.
• Late in the show, the house lights abruptly came on and the band left the stage for about 10 minutes. The haze machines the band had used earlier in the show triggered alarms throughout the building. Just as people were starting to grumble, the Lips returned and triumphantly closed out the night with a pair of “Soft Bulletin” highlights: “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” and “Waitin’ For Superman.”
• OK, not quite. The real coda, last night and forever, was “Do You Realize??,” the song I want playing on the spaceship in the distant future when they launch my ashes into the cosmos.
PHOTO GALLERY: Flaming Lips, Cherry Glazerr
Photos by Anthony Norkus and Anna Sink
VIDEO: Flaming Lips at 20 Monroe Live
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC