You’d be hard pressed to get someone to move from their beloved barricade spot at a sold-out House of Blues show, but when Wayne Coyne comes through the crowd riding a light-up robot-unicorn, it’s an entirely different story. The Flaming Lips debuted their latest stage antics on Friday (March 3), the first day of their North American tour, and Coyne celebrated the occasion by galloping into the general admission floor directly from one of the side exit doors on Lansdowne Street. Those fools standing on stage right never saw it coming.
The newest act in the Cirque du Flaming Lips is straight outta 2017’s Oczy Mlody, the Oklahoma outfit’s unpronounceable 14th album. Coyne’s new shtick accompanies their new tune “There Should Be Unicorns,” one of those Lips songs that makes you wonder if there’s actually much substance hiding behind their intergalactic synths. Even 34 years into the band’s career in psychedelia, the line between depth and gratuitous drug culture in their music remains blurry. But when it comes to defining the essence of The Flaming Lips, it all boils down to their repertoire of oddly compelling live performances.
After all, no crew of roadies has inflated more rainbows and mushrooms, loaded more confetti cannons, or wrangled more strobe lights into position. In a world without budgets and laws, Coyne would probably request to have each scrap of confetti laced with a tab of LSD. The band practically invented the aesthetic of Coachella — glitter, gems, and tie-dye — before Coachella became an Instagram spectator sport, and they can turn anyone into a Woodstock and/or space enthusiast after one show.
“What is this? Are you some kind of hypnotist?” Coyne asks innocently during “Are You A Hypnotist??” as an ungodly large disco ball visually assaults the crowd with a million reflections bouncing off the House of Blues’ walls.
The disco ball is just one of a myriad of different live Lips traditions, among walloping a gong during “Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung” and Coyne’s beloved crowd-surfing hamster ball trick. As the night progressed, the props only got more aggressive on the eyes. Stagehands dressed as giant eyeballs frolicking onstage in front of flashing strobe lights proved to be the peak mindfuck of the evening. Taking drugs at a Flaming Lips concert might be the most blasé thing you could do, if for no other reason than they’d cancel out all of the wonky special effects those roadies went through so much effort to set up.
Wayne Coyne has exactly two catchphrases — “YES!” and “C’mon c’mon” — both of which he uses liberally onstage (and on Twitter), but sometimes more explanation is needed when the crowd’s oomph is lacking. As the band started “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1,” those signature karate chop noises from the audience just weren’t enthusiastic enough, and Coyne wasn’t about to start his tour on a “meh” note.
“You gotta scream something that sounds vaguely martial-arts-ish,” he instructed after halting the band mid-song. The re-do was much more favorable, and revved Coyne up for a rendition of “Space Oddity” as he bowled over the audience in his signature jumbo hamster ball.
When the band returned for one more tune during the encore, they opted for “Do You Realize” and kicked “She Don’t Use Jelly” to the curb.
“Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?” Coyne crooned, a smile forming on his lips. Parting ways by providing an existentially-charged crisis is just the Flaming Lips way.