On October 2, Australian psych band Tame Impala and larger-than-life art rockers The Flaming Lips combined musical forces to create a truly magical night at New York City's Terminal 5. This psychedelic pairing, which at first glance seemed a bit unbalanced, turned out to be one of the most viscerally captivating shows that concertgoers may see this season. Blending musicianship, theatrics, and a legendary surprise, the co-headliners united music lovers for a sense-exhausting experience that the sold-out crowd won't soon be forgetting.
Music nobility Shawn Lennon and his band The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger started the festivities with a rousing and incredibly tight set. The son of John and Yoko shredded his way through tunes walked the line between gothic blues rock and classic psychedelia. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is what would happen musically if John Lennon were still around to work with Jack White.
Tame Impala took the stage around 9 p.m. and blazed through highlights from their relatively terse discography. Fresh off of the critical success of their 2012 record, "Lonerism," the Aussie rockers pulled off every nuance of their highly saturated and effect heavy tunes. Lead singer and guitarist Kevin Parker plays mostly with his head down not unlike a modest, young student who just learned about all of the cool tricks his guitar can do. He and the band aren't the liveliest bunch but their love for sound and experimentation resonates while they're on stage. When he's not singing Kevin's eyes are usually fixated on his guitar pedals; like he's constantly experimenting and genuinely appreciating the art of making music. Although, at times those experimental synth and guitar effects seem to overpower Parker's highly affected vocals. He doesn't ever really have great control over his amusingly wispy voice, but the dense echo and reverb add the coloring his singing needs to blend with the wall of sound behind it.
The groovy, ballad "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" and the rager "Elephant" were the obvious crowd favorites of Tame Impala's set. "Backwards" turned into a venue-wide singalong as the entire crowd joined the band to deliver perhaps one of the best and most infectious rock melodies in the past few years. Another standout moment was "Half Full Glass of Wine" with its extended jam that took the riff heavy groove to even greater heights. There were trippy images being projected behind the band that meshed perfectly with their throwback, psychedelic vibe. The fact that the visuals all synched with the drum beats, breakdowns, and guitar solos gave the show that extra interactive element that made it truly special.
After Tame Impala graciously left the stage, there was a longer set-up time than usual in order to accommodate for The Flaming Lips' extravagant staging. A Flaming Lips show is about as unpredictable as it gets and this time was no different. With the exception of a few legendary albums in their discography, at times in the past this band seemed to place a little too much emphasis on spectacle at the music's expense. However, with their new album "The Terror," the focus has shifted to experimenting with sound and letting the music speak more for itself as opposed to being trumped by stage antics. The huge, snake-like lights that engulfed the stage may suggest differently; but considering some of the crazy things this band has pulled off visually in the past, this was mild.
One of the many pleasures of seeing The Flaming Lips' live is how Wayne Coyne's otherworldly personality somehow gives the performance space a feeling of connection. He stood atop a humungous stage prop among a sea of lights and giant metal balls; yet the interaction with the crowd made everything feel like it was a part of the show. He was constantly commanding the crowd to make noise, sing louder, and move around. Dressed in a shiny, blue space suit, his presence was that of a stoned, space commander whose mission was to promote love and art. There were enough lights and seizure-inducing effects to power a nuclear plant, but Wayne had complete control the entire time.
Even though the unexpected is to be expected at a Flaming Lips' show, no one in the room was prepared for the truly historic event that took place. After a brief speech detailing how amazing their two night stint at Terminal 5 has been, Wayne Coyne called upon the one and only, Yoko Ono. Dressed in a glistening silver blazer, a top hat and her signature shades, Ono stepped on top of Wayne's mic stand unleashed a rendition of one of her and The Lips' collaborative songs. It was mildly similar to the infamous performance art piece she did at the Moma in 2010. It was brilliant, it was hilarious, it was obnoxious, it was stimulating, it was intriguing - in other words, it was perfect for a Flaming Lips show.
The Lips played mostly from "The Terror" and a few songs from 2009's "Embryonic." But, their set also included classics like "Do You Realize" and a drawn-out, orchestral rendition of "Race For the Prize." Since it was a double bill they didn't have much time to delve too deeply into their massive musical catalog. It's difficult to cut through the layers of glitz and glamor sometimes, but at the core The Flaming Lips are brilliant musicians and some of the most creative minds in the music world. There's no stopping The Flaming Lips train when it's set in motion. They've been at it since before a lot of their fans were born. If other bands could harness even half of their positive and creative energy, the music world would be a much better place.