Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Flaming Lips @ Bank of America Pavilion

Flaming Lips took on a whole new meaning Sunday night when the band members emerged from an on-screen representation of a certain female body part to kick off their show at Bank of America Pavilion. All of the band members sans one, that is, as Wayne Coyne suddenly appeared inside a large clear plastic ball.

If you think you've seen it all, you'll have to reconsider, unless you've actually witnessed a lead singer crowd-surf while emulating an embryo inside a womb. In fact, if you've never seen the Flaming Lips live, you're really missing out. Even at a venue that is far from my favorite, they put on an unbelievable show. The best way I can describe their live performance is that it's akin to Frank Zappa fronting Pink Floyd, and teaming up with the rejects from the Denver Broncos cheerleader tryouts, to play the guest slot on Sesame Street. Of course, I mean that in the most reverential way.

With ticket prices that were certainly on the steep side, especially when factoring in the additional charges of almost $20 per, the Lips chipped in a few extras themselves. Each online ticket purchased came with a special code to download three tracks from their forthcoming album Embryonic, three rare B-sides, and an official live audio recording. For the latter, I waited the two days necessary for them to post the audio of the Boston show. I was torn between that and downloading a show I hadn't attended, until I realized I received two codes for the purchase of two tickets. So, I can use the other for a different concert, perhaps the Portland show that we missed by just a few days.

Listening to the live recording as I write this, I've come to the conclusion that Wayne Coyne is a worse singer than I realized, even for someone who ranks near the top of the list of my favorite singers who can't. But, that's OK with me, because he's an exceptional performer—aided on this night by a couple of Red Bulls and some whiskey—with an endearingly quirky voice. Musical highlights included the feel good singalong "Bad Days", the rare lead vocal from Steven Drozd on "Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung", and "Vein of Stars", which was dedicated to—in the words of Coyne—their "cosmic brother" Ted Kennedy.

Although it seemed there were fewer balloons traveling around the audience than usual, and the crowd atmosphere never quite reached Grateful Dead show status—not that I would know from personal experience, but I swear their last show did—this was another exceptional performance from a truly great band. I can't imagine giving as much to the crowd as the Lips do, and doing it night after night while on tour, but these 40-something indie rockers do not hold back, nor are they even slightly lacking in appreciation for what the audience gives in return.

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