Everything you've ever heard about the Flaming Lips' live show is absolutely, 100% true.
Having read a fair share of Flaming Lips concert reviews over the years, I was admittedly a little skeptical going into the show. Would it seem totally contrived, scripted, stale? The band has been performing almost the exact same show for a few years now. Would it still be fun, despite the fact that I knew exactly what to expect?
It turns out that no written recap could have prepared me for the onslaught of sights and sounds that flooded the amphitheater on Saturday night. As expected, the crowd swelled to its largest for the headlining set, with the entire main standing area in front of the stage packed with fans who were eager to help Wayne Coyne surf above their heads in his giant clear plastic space ball. Coyne didn't waste any time pulling out that notorious prop, either, inflating it and rolling it off a runway and into the crowd while the band was playing its very first song. Each song was presented like a movement in a symphony and assigned its own set of antics and props: confetti cannons; giant hands that shot lasers; a megaphone that poured smoke out into the crowd; giant balloons filled with more confetti (and that seemed to somehow float in slow motion above the crowd); psychedelic visuals played on a giant hemispherical screen; and a video camera mounted on Coyne's microphone that projected live footage of his sweaty, wild-eyed face. Between songs, the band would play sweeping instrumental strains of perhaps their biggest hit, "Do You Realize?," effectively teasing the crowd for over an hour before finally playing it at the end of the set.
Do You Realize - Flaming Lips at SoundTown 2011 Somerset, WI from Elizabeth Boeckman on Vimeo.
The rest of the performance was peppered with the rest of the band's most recognizable material -- "She Don't Use Jelly," "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1," "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)" -- as well as a cover of Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage," which the band recorded as part of their Dark Side of the Moon cover album that was released in 2009. To further expound on the Pink Floyd them, the Lips brought out a couple dozen fans dressed as Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man to dance around on stage during the cover and for the remainder of the songs, including several staff members from sponsoring radio station 89.3 The Current.
In short, it was a non-stop spectacle that rivaled the production of most stadium-sized pop shows, and I would pay to see the exact same thing all over again next week.
Other highlights from Saturday's final countdown: Okkervil River, who surprised me with a stunning version of "Unless It's Kicks" that unspooled into a gorgeous cacophony; and Pink Mink, who helped to close down the smaller Summit stage with a frenetic energy that caused them to whip through their songs at breakneck speed. I'm kicking myself for missing Heiruspecs' set in the Summit tent, but at that point in the weekend I was starting to lose focus and ended up wandering off to socialize for a bit while DeVotchKa played on the main stage. The set times on both Friday and Saturday were spread out enough that it would have been possible to catch a bit of every act on all three stages, and the flow of the sets on Saturday night ended up being much smoother, though I might have switched the order of Okkervil River and DeVotchKa since the former brought such a high energy to the festival.
Thanks for following along with all of our updates this weekend; it ended up being a great experience overall and a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of concerts in the Twin Cities. Stay tuned for more photos, analysis, and an interview with Somerset Amphitheater's new owner Matt Mithun, which will all be running in this week's City Pages.
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