The Flaming Lips Bring Weird to Boston
The Flaming Lips
Explosions in the Sky
August 3oth 2009
Bank of America Pavilion, Boston
It’s amazing how a bunch of chairs can change a rock concert. The cheap plastic furniture takes everything that is great about seeing a band live and sterilizes it. Gone is the crowd energy, the singing along, and the pointed fingers. Instead, thousands of enthusiastic fans are transformed into zombies, herded to their assigned spots by the orange-clad seating chart police. During the show, some fans dare to belt out the songs along with the band, but most simply bob their heads or stare blankly, not exactly urged on by the stranger sitting in the next seat over.
During their show at the Bank of America Pavilion on the Boston waterfront, The Flaming Lips attempted to break this familiar pattern, as is their trademark, they did their best to turn the event into a party of massive proportions, complete with flashing lights, balloons, confetti, and stage dancers. However, Wayne Coyne and company were never able to fully escape the amphitheater trap, failing to connect with the thousands of fans filling the seats despite putting on a solid performance.
The night started with a short performance from an opening band that I don’t recall the name of and no one paid attention to. You know you’re at an amphitheater when…
Next up was Explosions in the Sky, an instrumental band hailing from Texas that has developed somewhat of a cult following. This wasn’t their first high-profile opening gig, for I saw them with the Smashing Pumpkins about two years ago. Their brand of instrumental rock is sometimes soft, sometimes heavy, and never really all that interesting, at least not to me. While I certainly consider myself a fan of lyrics first and instrumentation second, there were some in the audience that thoroughly enjoyed the performance, head banging along to a set that was at times ear-splittingly loud.
Before the Flaming Lips took the stage, their road crew worked furiously to ready the elaborate stage set up, and they were joined by frontman Wayne Coyne. In between taping down setlists and tuning guitars, Coyne tried to pump up the crowd with a number of exagerated fist pumps and hand gestures. The night would only get stranger from this point forward.
Instead of taking the stage, the band was “born” from the image of a large flourescent woman dancing on the backdrop. Coyne was the last to step out from a door in the screen, and he then climbed into a transparent ball and proceded to “roll” over the fans in the first few rows.
The musical portion of the show began with “Race for the Prize,” and while the band would go on to play a number of fan favorites, it never seemed like Coyne and company made a connection with those in the audience. Much of this can be attributed to the venue itself. I don’t have anything positive to say about amphitheaters that are more concerned with selling nachos than with putting fans close to the stage (I think you could just leave it as, I don’t have anything positive to say about amphitheaters—just kidding). Another issue was the distractions the band provided. Large colorful balls, some filled with confetti some not, where thrown into the crowd during the first song. While punching them up into the air was amusing at first, it got old as the set went on.
In addition to the bouncing balls, there was also plenty of confetti, and dancers positioned on each end of the stage. These dancers, even the ones dressed in wolf suits, somehow managed to move and jump around throughout the entire set. Their enthusiasm wasn’t matched by those in the seats, most of whom simply bobbed their heads throughout the night. This isn’t to say the band didn’t get the crowd interested on a few occasions. “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and “Yoshimi Pt. 1” were highlights of the set, as was “She Don’t Use Jelly,” which was the final song before the encore. The band would also preview three songs from their upcoming record Embryonic, which will be released on October 13th. Of the three, the intense “Silver Tremblin Hands” sounded the best.
To bring the night to a close, the band performed a one song encore consisting of “Do You Realize,” which finally had the crowd singing along. The show ended on a high note, but it was difficult to not be at least somewhat disappointed with the performance as a whole. While the Flaming Lips gave their best effort to keep the show interesting, their set lacked the intimacy of a club show, and couldn’t match the spectacle or sheer volume of an arena performance. While I would certainly see the Flaming Lips again, I can’t imagine I would be all that excited to do it at a place like Bank of America Pavilion.