I see this show as a conclusion to the just about 2 weeks of insanity that I put myself through that started with Titus Andronicus in Buffalo on the 13th and continued through Pitchfork in Chicago. What a way to end a series of concerts!
Opening band, Fang Island, played a fairly lengthy set of tunes that are clearly influenced by the arena rock and prog. rock of bands like Yes and Boston. Their sound was crystal clear with guitars swirling all around, bouncing off of each other throughout extended, yet tightly controlled and segmented jams. It is kind of refreshing to see a band that consists of kids that clearly were not around for the arena rock thing at its peak, dishing out guitar solos. Fang Island doesn’t really focus on the vocals, which I see as playing to their strength. Why cloud everything up with words if what you are trying to say is completely contained within the music? They even used a MOOG for a few of the songs, which really helped to solidify that Rush prog. rock arena kind of sound. The prog elements were definitely there in the music, but the changes weren’t so lurching and pretentious. It’s not like they were up on stage playing songs that they wrote just to prove how smart they are. Think of a slightly less aggressive sounding Iron Maiden. Or better yet, Iron Maiden crossed with Explosions in the Sky.
Wayne Coyne came out onto the stage before the show started to inform us that he was a bit skeptical about coming out in the ball. The way that the space is designed there are seats all the way up to the stage and I think he was nervous about depending on so few people to hold him up. It ended up being worry for nothing because after the band emerged from the vagina of a woman dancing on the screen behind the stage he stepped into the ball and walked nearly all the way to the back of the indoor seats. Sadly I was at the front of the lawn, and there is no way that he could have made it back there.
Of course, as everyone online probably knows The Flaming Lips really know how to open a show. Within moments there was confetti everywhere, hundreds of balloons floating and bouncing over the audience, streamers, bright flashing lights and pulsating psychedelic trance rock booming from the PA. No matter how many times you experience that you can never get over the absolutely uplifting feeling of all that excitement all at once. They pull out all the stops at every single show.
The set was full of new material from “Embryonic”, which is really a return to a bit more of the abrasive side of the Lips that they seem to have been moving away from on Yoshimi and At War with the Mystics. The songs all come off great, and they really know how to fill a space. They were energetic, focused, spot on and loud. They really do have a unique sound that is sort of designed for even larger venues.
But they aren’t afraid to pull it back either. Their set list is very carefully designed it seems. Most songs have quiet introductions or quiet codas that help to bring some shape to all of the non stop excitement. The entire experience is pretty well paced. The last time I saw them was at a festival setting and I came away wanting more. It is only now that I realized that they really don’t benefit from a short time limit. The show needs time to develop, they take time to connect with the crowd, they really don’t work well if they are just cramming in song after song after song like Japandroids or Lightning Bolt. Going to a Lips show is a journey.
Great show all around. It’s good to have the boys so close to where they record their albums. Dave Fridmann was spotted at the side of the stage by one of my friends, and I believe it since he is so important to their sound. If and when the Lips come to your town, do whatever you can to go. It is an experience that you will not soon forget.