This Tuesday, Oct. 25 at the Main Street Armory marked my third time seeing the Flaming Lips, and oh boy, they never cease to amaze me. Each time I see them, they continue to blow me away as they put on some of the most creative and innovative live performances I’ve ever seen. Lead singer Wayne Coyne is probably one of the most crowd-engaging, charismatic front men I have seen — which is especially noteworthy, considering that the Flaming Lips have been around since 1983 and Coyne is now 50 years old. I was lucky enough to see him walking around after the show, so I approached him and told him how incredible of a performance he puts on, and he gave me a hug.
My friends and I arrived just as Pitchfork-approved Kurt Vile & the Violators were taking the stage. They were all right — I don’t think their lo-fi songs came across too well in such a large venues, and their sound didn’t carry. The few acoustic songs they played sounded better, though.
The thing that I love about the Flaming Lips’ live shows is that they don’t just play music, they give a full-on performance with balloons, confetti, lasers, LED screens and crazy props. Their entrance onstage is quite unique: A naked cartoon woman dances onto the LED screen, as the members of the band emerge, one-by-one, from a door in the screen, which makes it look as though the woman is giving birth to the band members. Wayne then emerges in an inflatable, plastic bubble and crowd-surfs like a hamster in a hamster ball. They’ve used this same entrance at every show for the past few years, but it’s so novel compared to other bands that it never gets old.
What I really enjoyed about this particular set was that they played a great variety of songs from different albums. I first saw them in the beginning of 2010 at New Jersey’s Wellmont Theatre — touring behind their 12th studio album “Embryonic” — where they relied heavily on their new material. I saw them again about a month later at 2010’s Bonnaroo, where they played a shorter ordinary Flaming Lips set. (Mind you, an ordinary Flaming Lips set is nothing short of extraordinary.)
This show was like neither of those, however. What was extra refreshing about this one was that they didn’t play more than two songs off of the same album, allowing them to cover a wide range of their works. They opened with “Embryonic” standout song “Worm Mountain,” followed by two of their more popular tracks, “She Don’t Use Jelly” and “The Yeah Yeah Song.” But they also made sure to include their classic “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” and the epic “Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung,” as well as “What Is The Light” and “The Observer” off of their ambitious 1999 release, “The Soft Bulletin,” which they only recently started playing live.
As usual, they closed with the anthem, “Do You Realize??” I was hoping that they would throw in a few “Dark Side of the Moon” covers, like “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse,” but I sadly had no such luck.
Their multi-layered, lush and neo-psychedelic arrangements paired with Wayne’s distinct vocals and celestial lyrics are what make the Flaming Lips such a one-of-a-kind group. They take pride in the fact that they’re one of the most bizarre bands out there right now.
Although they haven’t released a proper album in almost two years, they are by no means a stagnant band. They have been releasing a number of singles and EPs worth mentioning — the two most recent EPs were collaborations with the experimental group, Lightning Bolt and Chillwave founder, Neon Indian.
They also recently released a track only sold in a USB placed inside an edible gummy skull, and a six-hour-long song called “Found a Star on the Ground,” where fans were given the option to donate $100 in order to have their name mentioned somewhere in the song. Rumors have been circulating about a 24-hour-long song, a song only available as prizes in cereal boxes and collaborations with Animal Collective’s Panda Bear, disco rockers Ghostland Observatory, Death Cab For Cutie and Black Moth Super Rainbow.
England’s Q Magazine has the Flaming Lips as No. 12 on their list of “50 Bands to See Before You Die,” and rightly so. Their creativity is undeniable, and they really know how to put on an unbeatable performance.
Scheinberg is a member of the class of 2014.