It was a brisk Tuesday night at the gorgeous Garden Walk at House of Blues Anaheim and the second story of the outdoor mall had a line wrapped around the building. People of all ages – from children to the elderly – waited with enthusiastic anticipation to see The Flaming Lips.
If you aren’t familiar with The Flaming Lips, just know that they are a feast for the senses for both photographers and fans alike. Their stage show is full of never-ending eye candy accompanied by melodic, psychedelic rock.
You may remember an alternative video on MTV (back when they played music videos) called “She Don’t Use Jelly.” I remember it standing out from the rest of the videos with its ridiculous, nonsensical rhymes. However, many of The Flaming Lips songs have a lot more depth and some possess an infinite sadness. They are a pleasure to listen to both in person and as ambient music in the car or at your computer.
As The Flaming Lips were about to start the show, a large, inflatable bubble was situated front and center on the stage. It was a good indicator of the magical and unique night that was to come. When lead singer, Wayne Coyne, appeared on stage, a helper immediately assisted inflating the bubble with Coyne inside it (the band famously performed inside bubbles during the early stages of the pandemic).
Coyne was an eccentric silver fox, looking every so dapper in a suit with harness and wild grey locks that reminded me of a mad scientist. After he was established in his bubble, where he performed most of his songs, a giant rainbow was inflated in an arc over the front of the stage. It was beautiful to see him jumping in the bubble under the rainbow. The bubble itself was scratched and wrinkled from Coyne consistently jumping up and down in it, as well as kicking it and steaming it up with his vocals and motion as they went through “Sagittarius Silver Announcement,” “Silver Trembling Hands,” and “Do You Realize??”
Confetti was being deployed consistently throughout the night. I have never seen a band with four confetti canons and it was everywhere – there was confetti in everyone’s drinks, hair, and even shoes. Coyne had streamer canons of his own and also wore a Wonder Woman onesie that was quite the sight to see.
There were two drum sets, one for Matt Kirksey and the other for Nicholas Ley. They were both wearing eye-catching bright green wigs. The intensity of both of them hitting each note was a very powerful backdrop to Coyne’s delicate and melodic vocals through “Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear” and “Why Does It End?”
By the sixth song, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1,” a giant inflatable pink robot was on stage and Coyne sang in front of it and shot off his streamer canons at the crowd. He was supported so beautifully by Steven Drozd and Derek Brown on guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals, and Tommy Mckenzie on bass.
THE FLAMING LIPS
March 7, 2023
In between songs, Coyne was very engaged with the crowd and encouraged them to scream as loudly as they could; not because he has an ego, but because he feels that it is encouraging to the people around them that might be going through a tough time. He gave a lot of context for the songs and also spoke of how drugs influenced their latest album, 2020’s “American Head.” It was on topic as they went through “At the Movies on Quaaludes” and “Will You Return / When You Come Down.”
They ripped through excellent versions of “Assassins of Youth,” “How??,” “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell,” and “Waitin’ for a Superman,” plus an amazing cover of Madonna’s “Borderline.” Of course they did the ever so popular “Dinosaurs on the Mountain” and “She Don’t Use Jelly” before ending with “Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung.”
Often, the crowd will start to leave before the encore begins. Well, not Flaming Lips fans. Despite their most popular song being played before the encore, no one moved a muscle. The band returned and the encore was filled with a lot more than the usual two songs most bands do. They gave us “My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion,” “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate,” “All We Have Is Now,” “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton,” and “Race for the Prize.”
The grand finale was Coyne walking onto the stage holding a gigantic balloon that read FUCK YEAH ANAHEIM! It is the earmark of a Flaming Lips show to end with a FUCK YEAH balloon in the current city. Although the singer is the only original member of the band remaining, I am glad they have persevered so that every generation gets to experience this once-in-a-lifetime visual masterpiece.
The Flaming Lips will be on the road for the next several months celebrating 20 years of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.” They will certainly entertain ss they will perform the album in its entirety along with some of their “greatest hits and fan favorites.”