Flaming Lips at Roy Wilkins, 9/19/10
Roy Wilkins, St. Paul
Only the Flaming Lips could get away with this shit.
To kick off their show in St. Paul Sunday night, the band entered the stage through a glowing light that emanated from a naked woman's vagina on the screen at the back of the stage. It was a ridiculous idea, one which was likely some convoluted metaphor for the band's message of spreading love, but which above all was just hilarious and completely over the top.
Only the Flaming Lips could think of such an entrance but that's what's so fun about the guys, even after all these years.
Things proceeded accordingly through a swirl of confetti, streamers, and balloons while groups of people danced in orange jumpsuits at the side of the stage. The quintet's two-hour set was essentially the vehicle for Wayne Coyne to explore the outer limits of his own flights of fancy, and so long as you were willing to follow, he could take you pretty far out. The 49-year old--his nest of pepper-gray hair a tousled mess, shirt sleeves rolled up--had a virtually endless supply of energy, jumping and staggering around stage or rolling on top of the audience in his "space bubble;" at one point he even rode on the shoulders of a guy in a bear suit.
It didn't necessarily make much sense, nor did it all come off completely; in particular, Coyne's voice was ragged, sounding hoarse from the outset and only getting rougher as he went, and at times the songs' spacey interludes stretched themselves a little bit far. He frequently prefaced the band's songs with rambling reflections on their respective meanings--"I'm no brain scientist," he said ahead of "In the Morning of the Magicians" before eventually laughing, "You may be drunk, you may be tripping, but you're probably thinking, 'What the fuck is Wayne talking about?'"--but there were plenty of gems as well, such as when he said, with a hint of irony, "I've actually met Prince. The guy's pretty fucking weird."
At the end of each song, Coyne unfailingly stood with his right arm aloft, head thrown back with an enormous grin on his face as if each song were a small triumph. So even with all the Flaming Lips' sensory overload, that image still seemed to be what was what mattered most: a simple expression of the band's sheer exuberance and its determination to put on not just a show but a true spectacle--which is exactly what they did.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti opened for the Flaming Lips and proved an appropriately bizarre choice. Pink, dressed in a red, green and blue overcoat with matching short shorts and long white socks, mostly strolled around the stage stroking his long blond hair, the music a mix of new wave and disco vibes while he howled and screamed off key, but which was entertaining nonetheless.
Critics' bias: What's so funny about peace, love, and tripping out, dude?
The crowd: Those balloons kept making the rounds all night long.
Overheard in the crowd: "Whoo ah ah ah!" (collectively imitating monkeys)
Random notebook dump: Giant hands shooting laser beams at disco balls--now a bear is eating us, repeatedly
For more photos: See our complete slideshow by Nick Vlcek.