Thursday night at The Fillmore, in Detroit, legendary Oklahoma psych-rock group, The Flaming Lips, delivered their unique brand of emotionally powerful music and a visually stunning display of lights and graphics that dazzled the audience throughout their two-hour concert. Whether audience members had seen the band several times before or if it were only the first time, there is little doubt that almost everyone left the show feeling uplifted, positive, and charged-up with energy to fight the good fight for peace and love in the world outside.
After a tight set from openers, Morgan Delt, the already-overloaded stage became busy with sound checks, light tests, and the obligatory smoke machine, warming up. The keen fan easily spotted all six current members of The Flaming Lips wandering on and off the stage to check the tuning and levels of their instruments. This had a way of humbling themselves before the show even began, and it is common for them to do. When the lights finally went down, the audience was greeted with a mind-blowing visual spectacle of a show that featured everything from inflatable aliens, suns, and star-men to tinsel, glitter, and confetti (on everything, all night) to psychedelic film loops projected on movable screens, and several points where the audience was bathed in violent strobe lights. The Lips have a reputation for this sort of presentation, but they don't take it for granted for a second.
The music was equally powerful and engaging. The opening number, "The Abandoned Hospital Ship," was a non-single from their 1995 album, Clouds Taste Metallic, that has not been performed since that album's tour. The band followed with a much more-successful song, 1993's, "She Don't Use Jelly," which brought those in the audience to their feet and got most singing along. After the recent departure of drummer Kliph Scurlock, who had performed with the band since 2002, the Lips have had to adjust, but this has allowed them more creative freedom rather than disallowing them to perform the same songs in a similar or more interesting way. The group now features a full-time percussionist across the stage from their new drummer, adding extra racket and accents during powerful moments in various songs, and multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd took a few turns behind the drum kit during the concert, most notably during "Jelly" and 1999's "Race for the Prize," all of which brought a new, creative energy to the presentation of the classic and newer songs, alike.
After a few more sing-along songs, the band segued into the meat of their show, which focused on emotionally-heavy material from their most recent two LPs, more than anything, but a few choice classics were also featured throughout. The visuals supported the lyrics, and vise-versa, and the songs that were played carried with them a powerful sense of emotion that was conveyed beautifully through the performance. Songs that touched on contemplating the value of love, the reality of death, coping with the pressures of life, and the enormous value of it, have a way of moving a listener or audience beyond the standard pop song or rock concert. Finally, after celebrating recent birthdays of two band members, the band encored with the classic, "Do You Realize??" and then came back for one final song, a majestic cover of The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." This final performance, especially, put an exclamation point on the night, with a visual blow-out that accompanied a slow, psychedelic, arrangement of the song. Compared to the original, it ran about three times as long, but that only added to the impact of the performance. When the audience finally emptied out into the Detroit evening, smiles could be seen all around, and confetti continued to fall to the ground, trailing behind concert-goers as they made their way to the parking lots.
The Abandoned Hospital Ship
She Don't Use Jelly
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (pt.1)
In the Morning of the Magicians
Watching the Planets
Feeling Yourself Disintegrate
Race for the Prize
Look...The Sun Rising
Try to Explain
Virgo Self-Esteem Broadcast
Silver Trembling Hands
A Spoonful Weighs a Ton
Happy Birthday (Mildred Hill)
Do You Realize??
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (The Beatles)
(Outro music-Louis Armstrong-"What a Wonderful World")