"Disappointed" describes my first Flaming Lips show. After two months of having the true pleasure of listening to their new album Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, easily one of my favorite records this year, eager anticipation for their one off, small venue performance at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood seeped from my pores. Around 9:30, the band slowly shuffled on-stage to fiddle with their tuning and occasionally wave to the tightly-packed house. Bassist Michael Ivins and guitarist/drummer Steven Drozd were dressed in white & pink bunny rabbit outfits, sans bunny heads. Amusing.
After almost 20 years together, The Lips don't take themselves too seriously, which is good to see. Singer Wayne Coyne was the main reason for my let down. Imagine Yes' Jon Anderson trying to sing ? la Neil Young after a full day (or two) of booze and smokes. Take late '70s Rush performing Todd Rundgren songs and you basically have the night ahead. Coyne's voice may be an acquired taste to some, but it's never been an issue for me. His cracking notes and straining to stay in tune goes well-appreciated. On record, there's a smooth quality that holds it all together. On this evening, however, the smoothness was rubbed down with sandpaper. This was apparent from the get go with the set opener "Do You Realize," though his voice had moments of clarity by the end of the night. Add to the vocal irritation a never ending between-song banter that could be considered sweet, but bordered on pathetic. The Lips frontman chatted the crowd up regarding a variety of topics, usually at great length, ranging from his love of singing, to the joys of confetti (of which there was A LOT of in the air and floor), to a member of his stage posse cutting his wrist by accident in London, and finally to the fact that the audience needs to feel the love by singing a bit more and getting loud. Granted that last bit goes appreciated with regards to the almost always sedentary LA crowds, explaining it could have only taken a sentence or two. Regardless, the effect was quite amazing as the crowd literally screamed at full volume for an entire song.
Less all the yakking, the actual music, which was played masterfully, lasted little over an hour and consisted mainly of songs from 1999's stellar The Soft Bulletin and the new album, which came out this week. A slowed down cover of Kylie Minogue's recent hit single "Can't Get You Out of My Head" was pretty brilliant. Their only radio smash "She Don't Use Jelly" was introduced, again at great length, the band discussing how much they still love the song. Happily, "Jelly" has held up quite nicely as time goes by. New millennium prog rock might be alive and well, but the live experience left me feeling a bit cheated. However, due to their enthusiastic reaction, the capacity crowd would probably disagree with my critique.
Folk Implosion opened the show, having only filled the role with one day notice. Lou Barlow did little to live up to his Christ-like stature among his worshippers. His arena rock dirges left me ill (and I am a full-on supporter of Sebadoh & Folk Implosion). The two songs played without him singing lead were a bit better off and had more passion to the rock.
Source: Matt Surrena (Beyond Music)