THE FLAMING LIPS
April 15, 2003
40 Watt Club - Athens, GA
While it was obvious from the start who the sold out crowd came to see tonight, the usually jaded Athens audience gave a surprisingly warm welcome to Ohios The Sun as the quartet cranked up a powerful, passionate and frantic opening performance that demonstrated ably how the band caused a good old-fashioned feeding frenzy in the major label record industry. The band did a generous helping of tunes from their powerful, if somewhat inconsistent, new Warner Brothers Love & Death EP, but superceded any of the recordings with a youthful intensity and punkish fervor. The songs, especially Summer Of 72, were remarkably soulful for a straight-up alt/garage rock act. Their sound actually came across more like PCP-laced Delta blues than anything else.
The highlight of the set was a new tune, tentatively called What Would Happen If We Dragged The President Out Of The White House And Tried Him In The Street? Singer/guitarist Chris Burney put so much into it, that he lost his glasses. By the time they closed with Fell So Hard, it seemed that a chunk of the audience had done just that. Sure, there were still some crossed arms in the crowd, but the majority seemed pleasantly pleased.
Sparklehorse showed up and played 3 pretty, but ultimately lifeless and dull songs. Stripped down to a duo consisting of guitarist/singer and laptop manipulator, it was hard to compete with the onslaught that The Sun had just ended.
I was actually having a hard time focusing on what they were doing even if they only did it for 15 minutes or so. Maybe if they had played first, it wouldve been okay. As it was, we just wanted The Flaming Lips.
From the first boom and crack of the drum kit during Race For The Prize, The Lips had it locked up. Sure, Wayne Coynes voice was iffy at first, but it didnt take long to settle in to his usual frail warble. With this being the first night of their tour, one wouldve expected more problems, but it just wasnt so. What struck me most about the performance (aside from the wave of pot smoke that hit me with the first blasting chords) was the power the band has. On record, theres a smooth, cinematic fullness. While not losing that live, there is also a sheer power that apparently doesnt translate to record.
Who wouldve thought that something like the introspective, quiet Do You Realize would kick so hard in concert? Multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd pushed buttons to trigger full orchestras, skull crushing rave-worthy beats and waves of sound between his stints on guitar and keyboards to create a wash of sound that at times bordered on overwhelming. Of course, there was more than music. Fans and contest winners lurked on each side of the cramped stage wearing fuzzy, cute animal costumes. In fact, with the exception of suit-wearing Wayne Coyne, everyone on the stage was in costume. From the bass/keyboard-playing zebra to the bear (?) on drums, this was a show for the eyes as well as the ears. Coyne constantly threw handfuls of confetti on the giddy crowd and plumes of smoke shot out from a fog machine. Live video was superimposed on the band and interspersed with moody, artsy vignettes. Talk show host John Stewart even introduced (via screen) the sing-a-long She Dont Use Jelly. Aside from that song and Lightning Strikes The Postman, the entire set was composed of tunes from the last two Lips albums and that was fine by me.
An early show highlight was the mostly pacifist The Fight Test, which the singer explained had recently been banned in England as being pro-war. The absurdity of this was not lost on the hyper-receptive audience. The band and crowd were still going strong by the time of the poignant, but still kicking late-set Waiting For A Super Man (replete with giant toy hands). The Lips closed with a smoking (literally) version of A Spoonful Weighs A Ton.
After much clamoring from the confetti-covered congregation, the band
returned. The encore was a low key What Is The Light that led into the moody,
somnambulistic instrumental The Observer. Then the band exchanged hugs and did
the whole handshake with the crowd thing before slowly wandering away. It was over all too
soon. Sometime, a few hours later and back at home, I was awakened to the sound of myself
singing for Yoshimi to not let those robots eat me. My pillow was covered in confetti.
FLAMING LIPS set list
40 Watt Club Athens 4/15/03
Race For The Prize
The Fight Test
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. 1
In The Morning Of The Magicians
She Dont Use Jelly
All We Have Is Now
Do You Realize?
Waiting For A Superman
A Spoonful Weighs A Ton
What Is The Light?