REVIEW: The Flaming Lips at Summerfest

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Let me reassure you, the events described in this review are in fact real things that happened, and not some crazy dream that I had.

Seeing The Flaming Lips live is nothing short of an other worldly experience. Believe it or not, the band are in their 35th year of existence, and don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. In fact, they’re as popular as ever, and known for their high production, top notch live experience, which they brought to the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse on Friday night. Everyone in attendance was in for a treat.

The festivities began early, with Wayne Coyne making his way on stage at approximately 9:45, for nothing more than to wave hello and shoot a cannon of streamers onto the crowd. The full band would emerge at 10:00, with a rendition of Also Sprach Zarathustra’s “Sunrise”, and choreographed house lights on Coyne’s command. The rest of the night was beautifully orchestrated mayhem; Streamers were fired from cannons, confetti and balloons rained on the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse crowd, a giant “Fuck Yeah Summerfest” balloon set was displayed and subsequently dispersed, and that was just within set opener “Race For The Prize”. That would be followed by a giant inflatable robot for “Fushimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 1”. While it was exceptional by Summerfest standards, it was nothing out of the ordinary for The Flaming Lips.

It can get lost in the theatrics, but The Flaming Lips are also very skilled songwriters and musicians, as well. The group kept the audience into the euphoria of the moment, with “Fight Test”and a singalong to  “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (All Your Power)”. In between, there was a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner played through a talk box while Coyne held up giant hands that displayed lasers from each. I must remind you again, completely awake and sober here. Oh yeah, at one point Coyne rode atop a giant light up display horse that was wheeled throughout the crowd with handlers in supehero costumes. He was the star of the show, and nothing was off limits within the area of the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse (or out of it; several giant balloons got caught in the wind and landed in various sections of the grounds).

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The night was filled with highlight after highlight, with Coyne leading the way most of the time. Offstage moments were filled with quiet anticipation from the crowd, eagerly awaiting whatever stunt was coming their way next. A fitting tribute to David Bowie was a great moment, with Coyne singing “Space Oddity” from inside of a giant bubble, which would seemingly float its way to the sound booth and back. Keep in mind that Wayne Coyne is 57, and still moving around crowds in a giant bubble.

The band is still touring from 2017’s “Oczy Mlody”, but the set was more of a retrospective of the band’s work. The main set ended with “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton”, specifically on the word “Love”, which was repeated for the majority of the band’s break before the encore and flashed on the screen at the Roadhouse. The group then returned, and Wayne Coyne gave a lengthy monologue about the inflatable rainbow that appeared onstage. Essentially, it malfunctioned the first night of the tour, and inflated late, but Coyne used that as a metaphor that you should “never doubt the rainbow, because the rainbow always comes, just not always when you expect it”. It was poetic in his delivery, and the crowd responded accordingly. A group singalong to “Do You Realize” then closed out the night.

Even if you didn’t know a lot of The Flaming Lips’ material, there was an unmistakable sense of joy from the crowd on Friday night. In any case, seeing the band live is something far more incredible than any review could do justice.

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