The Flaming Lips have been around roughly forever, but they've never done much more than flirt with mainstream success. Going to see them live, however, you'd think they were one of the biggest bands in the world; between the scores of insatiable fans and the elaborate stage shows, the whole thing feels like the best party you've ever been to. Lead singer Wayne Coyne is probably the most charming and charismatic frontman around, acting as the guide into the sometimes happy, sometimes sad, but always strange and wonderful landscape of their songs. As he has since at least Coachella 2004, Coyne began the set by walking around in a giant bubble, rolling himself out onto the pit and walking around for a bit (this was only after the rest of the band had emerged from an image of a brilliant shining light in between a woman's legs on the screen behind the stage, so maybe Wayne was outdone on this night). Once he returned to the stage, he had his own birth moment as he exited the bubble, and then the stage exploded as the band kicked into "Race For The Prize."
In an instant there were orange and white and yellow balloons everywhere, streamers, smoke, confetti, and the stage was flanked by dancing snow angels and Yetis. In the middle of it all stood Coyne, swinging stray streamers and urging us all to sing along. It was at this point that the smile I would go to bed with sprung up on my face like a happy weed. After "Race For The Prize" they played a new song, "Silver Trembling Hands," and then the undeniable "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song." The great thing about seeing The Flaming Lips live is the added kick it gives most of their songs. Not that they rock out harder necessarily--though "Moutain Side," "Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung" and "The W.A.N.D." all rocked, certainly--but some of the experimental noises and samples get left behind for a more immediate live sound. In some cases they went in the other direction, taking fan favorites "Fight Test" and "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1" and stripping them down to just Wayne's vocals and multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd's keyboard. While I prefer the songs as they were originally recorded, this approach brought out the beauty in both, and under the night sky of Griffith Park it felt right.
Set List: Race for the Prize / Silver Trembling Hands / The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power) / Fight Test / Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear > Convinced of the Hex / Mountain Side / Vein of Stars / Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1 / Pompeii am Götterdämmerung / The W.A.N.D. (The Will Always Negates Defeat) (with an intro of Taps) // Do You Realize??
Throughout the set Coyne kept talking about how good it was to be there, and at one point explicitly stating how lucky we all are, himself included, to be able to get together and listen to music. As the 10:30 curfew approached, he announced that they wouldn't have time for a real encore, but he didn't want to deny us our right to cheer for them to come back on, so he walked off the stage for maybe a minute while everyone went nuts until he came back, at which point we all went really nuts. They finished with a celebratory rendition of "Do You Realize??" and afterward he smiled and laughed a few more times before waving goodbye, leaving us all with a happier feeling than we came there with.
(Setlist and photos courtesy of/stolen from OC Register)