There is a reason why the Flaming Lips have become one of the most improbably famous rock bands in the world: they are ridiculous. Seeing band ring in the new year at the Cox Center, their home city’s oldest venue for arena rock — in the same room where a teenage version of frontman Wayne Coyne once saw both the Who and Led Zeppelin give lessons on rock showmanship — it’s hard not to admire the Lips’ goofy charisma and general display of balls (both literal and metaphoric). Before launching into a set that would include a song-for-song cover of one of the most iconic rock albums of all time, Coyne reminded the sold-out crowd to look up whenever they stepped outside the venue. “Tonight there is a very rare full blue moon shining down on Oklahoma,” he said. “How lucky are we to have the universe cooperating with us completely tonight?”
For the next two and half hours, the universe mostly did cooperate. Having re-embraced their noisy, psych-rock roots with the release of 2009’s excellent Embryonic, the Lips struck a nice balance between the touchy-feely vibe of populist hits like “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” with freaky new jams like “Convinced of the Hex.” It’s easy to forget what a ridiculously great pop song “She Don’t Use Jelly” actually is until seeing it played in an arena at peak volume while an ocean of glow sticks and beers are hoisted into the air. After announcing an impromptu marriage proposal that had just taken place in the crowd (congrats to Tony and Debbie, whoever you are), Coyne serenaded the crowd with a sing-along version of Oklahoma’s official state rock song, “Do You Realize??” ushering in 2010 and showering the room with approximately one-gazillion balloons. He then pulled his wife onstage for a sweet “Welcome to 2010, motherfuckers!” midnight kiss.
The evening’s only buzzkill moment came from the long post-countdown transition from the classic Lips set to their Dark Side of Moon performance during which the stage was reconfigured and an already too-drunk crowd managed to get restless. Finally joined onstage by fellow Oklahoma freakologists Stardeath and White Dwarfs (featuring Coyne’s nephew Dennis), things got off to a rocky start. Once the green lasers and enormous Floyd-worthy mirror-dome got warmed up though, the band took admirable risks while working through Pink Floyd’s opus.
“Money” and “Time” were given an acid-wash kick in the pants and Steven Drozd provided a show-stopping replication of Dark Side‘s female backing vocals. The set’s highlight was a gorgeous version of “Us and Them,” which revealed an obvious kinship between the Lips and their forebears. Like late-era Pink Floyd, the Flaming Lips are a band always struggling to reconcile its freaky, psych-rock tendencies with seemingly unsupressable pop leanings. In the wee hours of a brand new year, the results of said struggle were both messy and beautiful. “Maybe we’ll be able to do this forever” said Coyne before finally leaving the stage. Judging by the smiles on the faces of the crowd as they stumbled into the blue-moonlit night, he might just get his new year’s wish.
The Flaming Lips:
“Race for the Prize”
“Silver Trembling Hands”
“Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”
“Vein of Stars”
“In The Morning of the Magicians”
“Convinced of the Hex”
“See the Leaves”
“Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”
“She Donâ€™t Use Jelly”
“Do You Realize??”
(New Year’s Countdown and balloon assault)
The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs perform Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon:
“Speak to Me”
“On The Run”
“The Great Gig in the Sky”
“Us and Them”
“Any Colour you Like”