Mushrooms, confetti, lights, and a “Space Oddity,” The Flaming Lips lit up the Fillmore

By Andy Goh

March 31, 2017

They say you never forget your first time. Despite having been a band for nearly as long as my existance, Thursday night’s Flaming Lips show at the Fillmore would be the first time seeing a band whose live shows I heard often described as an experience rather than a concert. Radiant lights, costumes, confetti, balloons, a bubble, and a genuine sense of euphoria were all things I had been told to expect.

Upon entering the Fillmore, there were three things I noticed that clued me into what kind of psychedelic exhibition was in store. Two giant inflatable mushrooms placed in the second and third tiers of the venue. Layered curtains of LED rope lights, which hung like vines from a willow tree across the stage. Lastly, the biggest disco ball I had ever seen was suspended above the stage, an omnipresent, chromatic third eye governing the mind-bending events that were about to take place.

The crowd erupted as Wayne Coyne finally appeared, with his signature frayed and chaotic hair bobbing unmistakably from center stage. Like the maestro of a rock orchestra from outer space, Coyne brought the band and the stage lights to life, building the show’s anticipation to a climax. All at once, the energy in the room was unleashed with a wave of confetti, balloons, and shimmering lights as the band tore into “Race for the Prize.”

The opening song set the tone for the concert, both sonically and visually. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1 featured an inflatable balloon (there were lots of balloons throughout the night) that read “Fuck Yeah Charlotte,” which drew massive adulation from the crowd. Bringing some songs into literal form, “There Should be Unicorns” saw Coyne ride through the crowd atop a rainbow colored unicorn. Other notable balloon props included two 10 ft frogs and a star-headed figure (with people dancing inside), a giant rainbow arch, and two giant eyeballs gyrating during “The Castle.”

Arguably the biggest highlight of the night was Wayne Coyne climbing into the infamous hamster-like space balloon and rolling it through the crowd to a platform about 50-feet from the center of the stage. This, of course, is one of The Flaming Lips’ signature features, but what made this one special is that Coyne has recently been performing a heartfelt cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” serving as a fitting tribute to the late iconic rock star who has influenced the band throughout the years.

There is a keen focus on the musicianship and not just the theatrics of the show. No question the presentation is second-to-none, with a light show that is equally vigorous, intricate and surreal. However, the Flaming Lips’ music sometimes seems to be written more as a backing track to the visual themes rather than the presentation of the music itself.

Many of the songs weren’t particularly memorable, and only a few times did I hear people in the crowd singing along with the lyrics. Coyne’s vocals, which were also under pronounced at times, perhaps done intentionally to add to the spacey dimension of the music. There was also a long, slow section of songs after the initial euphoria had worn off that might have taken just a fraction of enthusiasm out of the room.

The energy was revived once the band tore into hard rocking songs like “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power),” “Are You a Hypnotist??,” and “The W.A.N.D.” The two encores were a bit more melancholy, and Coyne crooned through “Waitin’ For Superman” and “Do You Realize??”

Once the Lips departed the stage for the final time and the lights came on, confetti, streamers and deflated balloons littered the floor. A physical manifestation of the energy, vibrancy, and collective euphoria that a few thousand strangers shared because of a psychedelic band from Oklahoma that’s been around for longer than many of those in attendance had been alive. A live show from the Flaming Lips is certainly more than just a concert, it is indeed an experience. It seems as if what they say is true: You won’t forget the first time you see The Flaming Lips.

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