At one point towards the end of The Flaming Lips sold-out April 22 Little 500 show at the IU Auditorium, a clip of Tiffani-Amber Thiessen introducing the band during a special appearance at the Peach Pit on the original Beverly Hills, 90210 was looped. It summed up the vibe of the show perfectly. Like at that infamous appearance, the crowd really didn't know what to think. The 3,000 plus crowd of Little 5 celebrants were loaded up on beer and X and were clearly ready for a party. What they couldn't figure out was why the band was playing all this slow crap.
Some of the elements that make Flaming Lips concerts so much fun were marred because of the crowd. Wayne couldn't do his opening giant bubble crowd walk because most of the crowd was moving out of the way rather then reaching up to support the bubble. And in the middle of the show, when the backdrop announced "Get your laser pointers ready, 4, 3, 2, 1, Shoot Wayne", they literally shot Wayne, lighting up his body with tiny red dots and completely ignoring the big round mirror he was holding over his head. It was laughable, even as it was sad.
To their credit, the FLips didn't let the dense and befuddled crowd keep them from putting on a fantabulous show. It was a lysergic-soaked affair heavily populated by tunes from their latest CD Embryonic that really made a case for this album being one of the best of the band's career.
The few songs that they played from their catalog, like "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song," "Vein of Stars" and "Yoshimi" fit in great amid the newer material, although an acoustic "She Don't Use Jelly" and a strangely downtrodden "The W.A.N.D." seemed out of place and produced more blank stares then singing along.
But, minor stumbles aside, Wayne Coyne and Co. poured it on for a good two hours. "Worm Mountain" was intense and funky in a free jazz kinda way, while "Silver Trembling Hands" was all weird energy and paranoid melody, a soundtrack to the morning-after acid come-down. Multi-tasker Steven Drozd, bassist Michael Ivins and Drummer Kliph Scurlock were as tight and powerful as a band can get, especially on the jaw-dropping one-two punch of "Powerless" and "Pompeii AM Gotterdammerung," wherein the band provided more epic soundscape then most bands manage in their whole career.
Given the circumstances -- playing to a bunch of beer-fueled frat rats and the girls who love them -- it would have been easy for Wayne and The FLips to give up, play a shortened set and get the hell out of there. But Coyne, God love him, didn't give up on the kids, preaching his unique brand of feel-good politics and philosophy that ended in his rants getting a better reception then many of the songs. Gonna be good to see The Mighty Lips ablaze in front of a more partisan crowd like the one sure to be gathered at Louisville's Forecastle Festival later this summer.
Wayne's Nephew Dennis Coyne turned in a pretty good set opening the show with his band Stardeath and White Dwarves. Despite a sound and vocal style heavily borrowed from Uncle Wayne, songs like "New Heat," "Those Who are from The Sun Return to the Sun,"and, especially, the grooving cover of Madonna's "Borderline," got asses wiggling and shaking. Can't wait to see them play the Murphy Art Building May 7.