Live Review: The Flaming Lips, Thursday Aug. 20 at Edgefield
Mark Stock has been a busy man. First he went to see the Flaming Lips, then (that same evening) caught Horse Feathers at Doug Fir. Here's the first of two live reviews going up today. -Ed.
While the antics of Wayne Coyne's Flaming Lips are over the top and utterly absurd—morphing a live set into a theatrical carnival so bright and busy it can sting the eyes—it's also the epitome of entertainment. Cannons, confetti, fog and a special cameo from Donkey Kong never gets old, no matter how many times they appear to the tune of the painfully '90s anthem “She Don't Use Jelly.”
Where to begin? Firstly, The Flaming Lips never simply walk on stage. They prefer higher means of transportation—spaceships, pterodactyls, or, in this case, the giant human birth canal. Much to the joy of the enthusiastic Edgefield crowd, the big semicircular electronic screen backstage showed a neon dancing woman. The camera zoomed in on a radiating batch of orange light emanating from where her legs meet. Finally, Wayne and Co. popped out of the glowing motherly zone, fully clothed and perfectly healthy. Truly beautiful, the miracle of life.
Musically, the Lips are caught up in another rant of innovation not seen since the days at the drawing board with Yoshimi. And though they continue to drive every hit off that record into the ground, they find new ways of doing so. They played a half-speed acoustic version of “Fight Test” that managed to sound like a whole new song. When left to fend for its own, Coyne's voice is quite special. Hoarse always, but glued to a high altitude register that can be both chilling and blue as well as tranquil and thawing. He tends to sound like he's on the verge of tears, and one can't help but empathize.
They tried a few new tracks out from the forthcoming “Embryonic,” all proving to be full-bodied and pleasantly daring. This, naturally, came just before one of Wayne's signature anti-Bush rants, which always plays well in the northwest. Still reeling from the past election, Wayne wore a grin for the entire night, appearing so blissful he might as well have been drugged. The stage was the set for a twisted pharmaceutical ad for uppers. And like a child staring up form the crib at a twirling mobile, the viewer ends up just as happy, with countless colorful distractions playing pacifiers.
“Who else would give you a giant king butterfly,” Wayne asked the crowd, knowing full well the answer is was "nobody." Seconds later, said creature hobbled on stage, followed by none other than the “Catfish Captain,” a giant catfish clad in a sailor's hat. By then, it seemed natural and we barely blinked.
Underestimated throughout the night was the Zeppelin-esque drumming of Kliph Scurlock and the band at large's ability to musically match the madness that's unfolding all around them. Never completely outdone by the many effects—not the least of which was an introduction of the band by planet earth's top journalist Jon Stewart—the Flaming Lips aim to please, and they always aim for the furthest galaxy imaginable.