Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Live Review: Flaming Lips

September 12, 2007

Uptown Theater

Kansas City, MO

Let me make one thing clear, it is much easier to complain about a Flaming Lips concert than to actually go to one. People complain about everything this band does anymore: they complain that the bubble gag is getting old, that the sets are getting stale/didn't play their favorite song, that Wayne talks too much/preaches to the choir with his political rants, and so forth. To some extent, I can understand the validity of the complaints. The bubble gag is now well past its third year, believe it or not. The sets they played this summer are roughly the same they're playing now, and I didn't get to hear my favorite song. Wayne does ramble on a bit at times, mostly waxing politics. Oh, the tickets were expensive, too.

However easy it is to complain about a Flaming Lips gig, I still say it is even easier to have a fucking balls out good time once you're there.

The best way I can explain a Flaming Lips show, assuming you have not been to one by now, is to compare it to the clock striking midnight on New Year's Day with nearly each and every song. Once Wayne returned to the stage from his stint surfing the audience in his space bubble, the band struck up their consistent set opener, "Race For the Prize", and the party began. Take a look at Nicole's pictures, if you haven't already, of what the Uptown Theater looked like while that song was playing. It was pure lunacy, yet it was magic too.

The set, while sticking mostly to the tried and true hits and latest album, At War With the Mystics, was still a crowd pleaser. I know the Flaming Lips are popular, but I've never experienced a theater full of people singing along to "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1" before, not even when I saw them touring with Beck five years ago. The now standard old song of the set, "Mountain Side" from In a Priest Driven Ambulance, rocked the house, and recalled an era of the Flaming Lips past that is rarely touched upon in their sets anymore. Sometimes us fans forget that they were once contemporaries with Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., the Pixies, and the rest of the seminal college rock gang. Their 3 minute feedback interlude was just the perfect reminder, and made me wish that I owned a time machine so I could travel back to 1990 to watch them at some shitty Oklahoma City bar, bad hair, flaming drumsets and all.

Another older track, "Riding To Work In The Year 2025 (Youre Invisible Now)" from 1997's 4 disc head trip Zaireeka, was also played, much to my surprise. It may have been the only surprise for me that night, but damn if it wasn't the most pleasant surprise I could have witnessed. It is no secret that I adore Zaireeka, and spread its gospel to all those that will man a CD player and listen. It should be noted that "Riding To Work" is one of my favorite songs off that album, and hearing it performed live while watching the band so intensely focused on performing it - the song was perhaps the only that didn't receive the full on flair of confetti, balloons, and costumed adults jumping around on stage - gave me goosebumps. When it was over I felt an incredible urge to leave right then and there and start a Zaireeka party back at the apartment, but there was still half a set left.

I'm glad I stayed, as I got to hear an intense "Waitin' For a Superman". Wayne, again rambling a bit before the song was played, spoke about his prop bugle that played "Taps" automatically. He explained that it was in honor of those who have died in battle, any battle (though on assumes that Iraq was mostly on his mind), and how he hoped that once the war in Iraq ended, the only place a person could hear "Taps" would be at a Flaming Lips concert. It probably sounds a bit corny when read, but trust me when I say that it was a touching statement, and once the prerecorded notes of "Taps" led into the beginning of "Waitin' For a Superman", I thought I was going to cry.

Before I end this, I would like to say a few more positive things about last weeks show, to hopefully counterbalance the complaints I lobbed earlier in this post.

1). Steven Drozd, where's the solo album? "Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung" is such a great song, and you sang it very well live. We all know you're the musical genius of the band, now make a record.

2). Wayne's voice held up incredibly well, I must say. Its no secret that Wayne is not a technically trained vocalist, but he sounded very good, especially on "Vein of Stars".

3). I also have to commend the band on bringing the bubble on the road for this tour. Its nice to know that the big and small venues alike can live that moment hoisting Wayne over their heads, even for a moment.

I've always said that a Flaming Lips show is an experience, and last week's show did nothing to convince me otherwise. Here's hoping they don't make Kansas City wait another five years before they bring their outer space circus to town again.

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