Concerts Concerts The Flaming Lips and Ethereality

The Flaming Lips and Ethereality

The Flaming Lips at Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
The Flaming Lips
Spoon, Tokyo Police Club
Molson Canadian Amphitheatre in Toronto, Ontario
July 8, 2010

Photos and Review by: Pete Nema

Whoa. There's something going with The Flaming Lips that just can't be conveyed through pictures, or even videos. There's something extra, something ethereal, something that can't really be experienced without being present.

The Flaming Lips

The last time The Flaming Lips were in Toronto was in 2006, a year they visited twice, and when I managed to catch them at the considerably smaller Phoenix. Even at that time, their shows were legendary, and yet the performance exceeded my expectations. It was brilliant, memorable, and unlike anything I've seen before or since. And for this recent performance, it seems like the same basic formula of big balloons and confetti hasn't changed, but many of the smaller, and wildly insane aspects of the show have changed slowly, creating uniqueness and surprises.

Before the show, Frank from Chromewaves pointed out to me a metal box near the front of the stage. Chained to the box was a black key, and there were a couple of thick cables coming out of the top. Across the top, the device was clearly labelled "LASERHANDS CONTROL". I wouldn't find out what the laser hands were, exactly, until much later in the show, but you had to know they were going to be awesome! And they really were. They turned out to be a pair of giant hands that Wayne Coyne (vocals) wore on his regular-sized hands that he used to shoot a multitude of lasers up at two giant disco balls hanging overhead. Due to the size of these giant hands, it was hilarious, and due to the seemingly random blaze of green lasers, it was amazing visual candy.

And through all of that — the space-bubble walk, the balloons, the streamer guns, the wide-angle lens projecting Coyne's singing face up on a huge sunshine-shaped screen behind him, the confetti storms, the two groups of side-stage dancers all dressed in orange, the bear suit, and yes, the laser hands — was the endless evidence of brilliant musicianship. It would be a stretch to call me a fan of their latest album, Embryonic, which comes across far to disorganized and free-form, but it didn't matter if they were playing songs from that album or any of their back catalogue, it was all so well orchestrated on stage. The acoustic version of "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1" was a beautifully sweet break from the much more powerful numbers. Between the songs Coyne spread words of tolerance and pleasure, and seemed sincerely happy that signs of those were visible in the crowd.

For the final number of the night Coyne and band produced an amazingly uplifting and suitably mind-blowing version of "Do You Realize?". As the stage cleared, I was surrounded by grinning, wide-eyed fans, of which I was one. Amazing, amusing, and memorable.

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Spoon

I would have been more than happy to see Spoon headline their own show, but getting to see them in direct support of The Flaming Lips was like getting two concerts in one. I listen to Spoon regularly — I'm still obsessed with their 2005 song "My Mathematical Mind", as well as a number of songs from their 2007 album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga — and although their recent release Transference hasn't had the same impact on me as some of the prior albums, it's still an excellent album overall. This Austin-based band puts on a good rock show, mostly due to the genuine performance of Britt Daniel (vocals, guitar). It's been a couple of years since I've seen them, and if they had been the last act of the night, I would have gone home satisfied. But, of course, the spectacle of The Flaming Lips was up next, and would somewhat overshadow this excellent set in my mind.

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Tokyo Police Club

I suspect that Tokyo Police Club didn't get a sound check because the mix for their set was out of whack, which meant I could tell they didn't sound as good as they should have. But at this point in the night, people were still arriving for the big show, and the reception for the band was warm enough. Their recently released album, Champ, is a significant step forward from their debut full-length album Elephant Shell, which leads me to believe that this young band's best music may still be unwritten (or, as they say, the best is yet to come).

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