Flaming Lips At The Agora
August 18th, 2018
When one attends a Flaming Lips show, one does not passively watch, furtively, from their place in the audience. Channeling a little Fellini, a bit of Tim Burton and a lot of post-modern craziness, The Flaming Lips make you a part of their show, whether you like it or not.
The Oklahoma City-based outfit made a tour stop at the newly-revamped Agora Theater last night and brought a shit ton of mirth along with a handful of their greatest hits. "Controlled chaos" may be the best term to describe the two-hundred or so gigantic beach balls that made their way front to back and then towards the stage again, in a desperate volley to kill my camera, as frontman Wayne Coyne flashed a million-watt smile between tunes.
Coyne, joined by original bassist Michael Ivins, led the other five members through a fifteen tune set list that took the crowd through the band's thirty-five year existence.
Upon taking the stage, Coyne apologized for missing Cleveland over the last several tours. Over the next two hours, the band made up for their absence; the Agora crowd was treated to a laser light show that almost put Pink Floyd to shame.
Setting the bar rather high, the band opened to the strains of Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra." Opus 30, mind you, to set the tone for the rest of the night. From there, the proceedings got even more nutty. Coyne, sporting a coiffed 'do and outfit that resembled Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd, followed up with "Race For The Prize," from 1999's The Soft Bulletin.
From there they offered "Yoshimi" and "Fight Test." Unleashing a PVC hell upon the folks up against the barricade, a barrage of four-foot beach balls pummeled the audience. As a photographer, my job is to get the shot; I've been in some challenging situations before, but never anything this chaotic...or fun. It became difficult to train my camera on Coyne and Co. as I was getting nuked in the back of the head by several dozen rubbery projectiles.
"The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" really got the crowd riled up; Coyne picked up a large balloon sign, "Fuck Yeah Cleveland" and held it aloft. Cell phone cameras were hoisted and hundreds of grainy, out-of-focus photos commenced for the next five-or-so minutes.
During "There Should Be Unicorns," Coyne rode, what else?, a unicorn throughout the audience while sporting a pair of inflatable wings. Making his way from stage right to stage left and back again, the front man gave the GA crowd some ample opportunities to get some extreme closeups and weird-angled selfies.
Offering up their most mainstream tune, "She Don't Use Jelly," the band then segued into a trippy cover of Bowie's "Space Oddity." Coyne, crowd-surfing (and simultaneously singing) rode over the audience in a giant inflatable balloon.
It appears as if he has a thing for inflatables.
The band finished up with a few other tunes, such as "Are You A Hypnotist??" from 2002's Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and "A Spoonful Weighs A Ton."
Encoring with "Do You Realize??," the outfit then left the stage.
While not as political or self-important as a band such as U2 or as introspective as many of The Doors' lyrics, The Flaming Lips don't take themselves too seriously, yet still have the chops of a kick ass rock band. They've managed to keep psychedelia alive well past its expiration date. Their inflatable pink robots or laser light shows may disguise the fact that they're not a mainstream outfit, but judging by the size of the crowd and the great time that everyone seemed to be having, that's just fine by them.
As a late summer antidote to all the self-important indie rock and folksy singer/songwriters, The Flaming Lips are a great way to usher in the Fall. I, for one, can't wait for them to make a return to the North Coast.
Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley