“I’d like to announce that everyone can move to the front,” reported Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne from center stage at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday evening. “I think that’s going to make this all more fun.”
Until then, there had been a preposterous imbalance in the outdoor venue, with only one-fifth of the reserved amphitheater seating and pit occupied. Meanwhile, the general admission lawn area in the back was packed with bodies. Coyne’s bulletin brought thousands of X Games attendees down front.
Wearing a spandex muscle suit, a style made famous by Nineties WWF wrestler Giant Gonzalez, and outfitted with a silver dong drape, Coyne was flanked by helpers dressed as giant mushrooms, a rainbow, and a bush. He explained that the band had survived a go-cart race just an hour before: “It was a competitive 10 laps, so I feel like we’ve participated in some really fuckin’ cool sports today.”
The Oklahoma rockers opened with the poetic deep cut “Abandoned Hospital Ship” before blasting the confetti cannons to 1993 hit “She Don’t Use Jelly.” Rainbow projections fired behind them, mascots frolicked, and Coyne wind-milled his arms to showcase a tinsel coat. Double-stacking hits, the group launched into an ecstatic version of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1,” which Coyne halted, imploring the audience to make a louder karate chop sound.
“This part usually determines how freaky the rest of the show goes,” he pleaded. “It’s also the part of the show that gets shared the most on social media... and no one wants the X Games or Austin to look bad on social media! You gotta really go for it!”
He of the hippie curls excels in stage banter that parallels the madhouse of a dance party onstage, complete with a giant “Fuck Yeah X Games” Mylar balloon and other various inflatables he sacrificed to the crowd. (“I always like throwing shit at the audience,” he reasoned.) Considering his recent collaborations with Miley Cyrus, who boasts teddy bears and blow-up penises in her shows, the Lips’ current spectacle makes it difficult to tell who’s influencing who.
With “Look... the Sun is Rising” off last year’s The Terror, for which Coyne donned a silver motorcycle jacket and cradled a fake baby, we were reminded of the group’s disastrous last local gig. Headlining SXSW’s free Auditorium Shores concert series in 2013, they unveiled a bleak stage show centered around a largely beat-less, dark synth LP, and the crowd couldn’t have run away faster.
There was nothing wrong with that album artistically. It just didn't work live. It still wouldn’t, but in a small dose, The Terror cut was a welcome foray from their indie bombast.
Closing on a high note, Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips beamed love with their earnest, soul-illuminating track “Do You Realize?,” then returned for a cymbal-crashing version of the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” which may have been the perfect bookend to a crowd-pleasing set-list.
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