The Flaming Lips live show is like a twisted, acid soaked circus with more balloons, confetti and glowsticks than you could possibly imagine. Dancing girls, lights hanging from the Aragon ceiling, crazy videos, intense strobes, lasers… And at the center of the storm is bandleader Wayne Coyne with his confetti cannon, acting as circus ringleader and keeping everything on track just when you think it’s all about to sprial out of control.The Lips brought their “Inside Our Heads, Out of Our Minds” tour to the Aragon on Thursday night for a sold out show featuring a full performance of the band’s 1999 album The Soft Bulletin.
The Aragon’s notoriously bad sound took some of the punch out of the show’s opener “Race For The Prize” but the band managed to tame the venue fairly quickly and, surprisingly, the show sounded pretty good for the most part (good for the Aragon anyway). For an album so full of harmonies and other very technical, headphone friendly instrumental orchestrations, there really couldn’t be a worse venue to play that album in full at than the Aragon… but the Lips made it work.
Keeping people’s minds off of the sound as the band worked out the early kinks was the band’s stage show. With the possible exception of U2, there is currently no bigger spectacle in all of rock. With more confetti than you could possibly imagine being shot into the air, and an incredible amount of gigantic colorful balloons being thrown from the stage and batted around by the crowd, the entire floor at the Aragon ballroom shook as thousands of people jumped and danced in unison. Coyne climbed inside his signature plastic ball to surf across the crowd as the band readied for the first song… one of the more incredible visuals I’ve ever seen at a live show. I’ve now seen him do it three times and it seems more impressive every time.
While The Soft Bulletin features some of Coyne’s most uncharacteristically personal lyrics, the show nonetheless turned into a celebration. Coyne (clearly still impacted emotionally by these songs twelve years later) wore his heart on his sleeve and dedicated one song to a fan who had reached him via twitter with his story of losing the friend who was supposed to join him Thursday night to an accidental drowning on the 4th of July. ”The world can be full of pain and what the [hell] do we do then?” asked Coyne. On a joyous night like this, Coyne’s answer should’ve been obvious: “We sing songs, that’s what we do!”
Soft Bulletin closer “Buggin’” drove the crowd to the brink and was one of the show’s finer moments.
The band took a breather after the nearly 70 minute performance and returned for their jubilant take on Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage.”
As the frenzied crowd waited during Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse” for the band to come back one more time, it was pretty clear what song the band would be returning with on a night like this. Coyne, as has become common, gushed about how much Chicago means to him as more confetti started to fly and the band launched into the night’s closer “Do You Realize?”
The Flaming Lips return to the Aragon tonight for the second of two nights with another full performance of The Soft Bulletin and God only knows what else.
There’s probably not an American band more suited to cover Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and they’ll be doing just that as they join the Dave Matthews Caravan Sunday on the southside for a full performance of that classic 1973 album.