Holy guacamole! That was one hell of a show.
Embarking on their “there should be unicorns” tour, the Flaming Lips hit the Agora last night with a stunning set that left a packed house gobsmacked in their wake. Frontman Wayne Coyne opened the set to the background score of space zathura from 2001: A Space Odyssey playing behind him as he offered a sincere mea culpa for taking so long to return to Cleveland; replete with a giant set of silver balloons that spelled out “Fuck Yeah Cleveland!”
Mexican garage punk outfit, Le Butcherettes, proved the perfect opener. Accompanied by another neo-psychedelia act would, at first blush, appear a no-brainer, but this would only diminish the mystique of what was to come. Wisely, Le Butcherettes came out swinging with a throat shredding intensity that got the crowd primed and excited for what was to come. Like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in their prime but with sharper teeth, Butcherettes tore through their set list rarely coming up for air, save for the song where lead singer, Teri Gender Bender, crowd surfed.
To say the Flaming Lips have an amazing stage show does it a disservice. It truly is something to experience in person. It speaks to band’s sonic prowess that the inundation of so many balloons, bubbles, confetti, rideable unicorns, inflatable rainbows and gigantic pink robots, giant paper machae hands that shot lasers from their palms, etc, never once took away from the music.
(Click the images for full screen, hi-res shots)
The Lips are accomplished enough that there was no need to dust off deep cuts to impress jaded long time followers or hyping their latest release, Oczy Mlody. Instead, Coyne strode into the best of the best of their catalog with a charming swagger that left standards like “She Don’t Use Jelly” feeling fresh and as relevant as the day it released. Evidenced by the capacity crowd singing along to nearly every song. This took an interesting turn as the giant inflatable pink robot that accompanied Coyne for songs off of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots took longer to rise than the band expected, causing a false start to the song. The crowd never blinked as they carried on the rest of the song’s lyrics accapella as the robot rose once more. Coyne appeared genuinely touched at the sentiment and offered insight into the title track. Despite the overt battling of pink robots described in the lyrics, the real message is in giving friends and loved ones the support they need even when they face unwinnable odds. This unflinching optimism served as thesis for the show, epitomized by a single word repeated over and over again on the screens as the band left the stage, “LOVE”.
Coyne rode a unicorn through the crowd, parting the clouds of dry ice and weed smoke like a psychedelic general rallying his followers. The crowd’s response, from beginning to end, was so raucous at times their cheers took on a singular wall of roaring white noise. The band closed the show with the fitting “Do You Realize?”, a stirring track with lyrics like “Do you realize that everyone you know some day will die? And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know you realize life goes fast, it’s hard to make the good times last…” that left the crowd hopeful and wistful in equal measure.