Yes, you read that headline correctly. The Flaming Lips took to the stage at SXSW’s Auditorium Shores to “give us something we’d all remember.” I wish I could forget the droning, sprawling mess of a set.
When it comes to The Flaming Lips, give me the spacey, fun, pop and rock side: “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” “Fight Test” and stuff like that. “Embryonic” and other darker side of “Dark Side of the Moon”-style atmospheric space noise is simply pointless noise to me.
Now, I wasn’t the only one that hated it. A lot of people seemed confused becasue this wasn’t the set they wanted to see. One out of every five people clapped after a song. Then again, some people freaked out in joy. The topless girl in the front row (who kept getting shown on the big video screen) seemed to love it, but I also think she was at least a little under the influence.
Enigmatic and (typically) entertaining frontman Wayne Coyne stood in front of the stage draped in rope lights and carrying a baby doll, which he often caressed and kissed. (No, I’m not making this up.)
Most songs involved a droning melody and a never-changing drum beat. Variations included some spacey guitar riffs (“Turning Violent”), ethereal vocals (Sarah Barthel of Phantogram guesting on “You Lust”) or heavy metal jamming (album-closer “Always There in Our Hearts”).
Title track “The Terror” at least had a cool bass line, but it got lost in the drony mess by the end of the song.
The whole thing, from Coyne’s baby (which I heard several fans remark derogatorily about) to the ceaselessly droning music, screamed “look at how different/artistic/weird/interesting we are.” It was that one kid in class who’s trying way too hard.
After “You Are Alone,” Coyne started philosophizing: “We’re all trapped in the isolation of our open minds. One of the only things that torture sometimes is… music, isn’t it? I think when we all sing and wonder if we’re all alone, I think we all know that we’re alone in the same way.” Eh, what?!
(Note: That was followed by someone screaming “Put the F-ing baby down!” I laughed.)
I can usually find something good in almost anything, even stuff I really don’t like, but I was at a loss here.
Luckily, the band came back after “The Terror” to play as much of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” its best album, in the time remaining in the set. The Flaming Lips played the album in its entirety at a packed set the day before.
After adjusting some onstage, the band went into “Fight Test,” which saw the audience grooving and singing along. Next came “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1″ and the remaining fans screamed when it started. There was a beauty, also, in hearing so many people sing “Her name is Yoshimi…”
The set ended with Jim James, who opened the show with a solo set, joining Coyne and the Lips onstage to sing “Do You Realize?” (James sang while sitting at Coyne’s feet and caressing that damn baby doll.)
The “Yoshimi” segment only lasted about 30 minutes of the 90-plus-minute set, but it ended in a beautiful way with Coyne leading a slow singalong of the final line: “Do you realize you have the most beautiful face.”
“Love you guys,” Coyne said. “We’ll see you again. Let’s go get drunk.”
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