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The Flaming Lips - Big Balloons and a Fish-Eye Lens

06-Apr-2006 09:44 pm Contributed by: pete Concert Reviews
The Flaming Lips
April 4, 2006
Toronto, Ontario (Canada)
The Phoenix
Enema Rating:
I guess the issue with writing concert reviews is that I'm often already a fan of the band, so the chances that I'll enjoy the concert are high. And the chances are even higher when the band is well known for their live shows. But bands can't always live up to the expectations of the crowd, so even though they may be legendary for their stage presence, they just can't live up to their reputation. The Flaming Lips is NOT one of those bands. I had heard many good things about their performances, and have even seen a few clips here and there on TV, so my expectations were very high. And even on the small Phoenix stage, they lived up to their reputation in creating an amazing and amusing spectacle. One that was clearly enjoyed by the 1000 or so ticket holders, a crowd almost entirely made up of smiling faces and Coyne clones.

The music that played while we waited for the Lips to setup/test their equipment on stage allowed me to play an alternative music version of Jeopardy in my head - my favourite answer being "Who is Steve Burns, ex-host of Blues Clues?" when Mighty Little Man played. As they took the stage so did four Santas and four aliens with bright spotlights, and about 40 big balloons sent out into the crowd that bounced around for the entire opening song (Race For The Prize) before getting burst one by one. Then before heading into a brilliant set of songs that spanned their entire career, they performed a cover of Bohemian Rhapsody complete with karaoke lyrics on the massive screen behind the band that induced the entire crowd to sing along.

As the band transitioned from song to song, Coyne would address the audience talking about past concerts, life, death, and individualism. He told us there were many places we were expected to be an individual, but The Flaming Lips concert is not one of them, and so he was happy that everyone was casting off their urge to be cool, waving their arms in the air, and singing along. At one point he mentioned that the last time they were in Toronto was for the SARS concert, and before that it was back in 1995 when they headlined at The Opera House. (I'm sad to admit I didn't know who they were then).

One of the best props was a tiny little wide-angle camera attached directly to the microphone that would show Coyne's face close-up as he sang , projected and distorted on the screen behind him. It was especially effective during Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1 that he sang using a nun puppet that looked hilarious as viewed through the fish-eye lens. The W.A.N.D. was sung through a megaphone with a blinding, flashing light box worn on his chest. Every now and then more big balloons would arrive and bounce around, one of which was popped by Coyne who then exclaimed "Don't worry, we've got hundreds more". During She Don't Use Jelly he used a pump to blow up one balloon until it exploded. On screen, we were treated to close up images of people's mouths while eating and singing The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, and a strange Japanese game show clip with women poking their heads up through a sheet and wearing meat on their foreheads, while a lizard ran from woman to woman.

For their final song, they blasted out a Lips-version of War Pigs by Black Sabbath while images of George W. Bush, Colin Powell, and others flashed on the big screen. A great finish to an amazing concert. I'm hoping Wayne, Michael, and Steven stick to their plan of coming back to Toronto and playing a slightly larger stage so that more people can witness their amazing show. If they do, be there.


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The Flaming Lips - Big Balloons Through A Fish-Eye Lens
Authored by: Anonymous on 06-Apr-2006 10:34 pm
I would never have guessed that I would have appreciated anything referred to as "Cow Jam" so much...