Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Flaming Lips

Nashville concertgoers were taken somewhere over the rainbow Tuesday, May 18, at the Ryman Auditorium. The psychedelic funk band The Flaming Lips brought a taste of Oz to town with dancing Dorothys, cowardly lions, lasers, lights and huge confetti-filled balloons. The result was a colorful, combustible explosion unlike anything typically seen at the Ryman.

Anyone questioning whether The Flaming Lips would live up to their expectations was immediately put at ease when front man Wayne Coyne walked on stage and said, “I’m coming out in my space ball. You guys have to fucking hold me up.” The audience became a tangle of extended arms, welcoming Coyne as he rolled over them like a gerbil in a plastic ball. Once safely back on stage, Coyne thanked the audience for holding him so “statuesque.”

Everything you think wouldn’t happen at the Ryman happened. The energy Coyne and his band—Michael Ivins, Steven Drozd, Kliph Scurlock and Derek Brown—shot out from the stage was truly fantastic. The show wasn’t just about the music; Coyne amped up the crowd by dancing, crowd-surfing and sitting on a bear’s shoulders while belting out “Silver Trembling Hands.” If Coyne alone didn’t attract everyone’s attention like a magnet to a tin man, more than a dozen girls dressed up as Dorothy and a few cowardly lions dancing on either side of the stage were more than enough to look at.

Four songs into the set, Coyne yelled, “The mother fucking night is young! You’ve got to scream.” The crowd joined him in, “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and went ballistic. Everyone began vigorously chanting the words “yeah, yeah, yeah,” and Coyne seemed quite pleased with himself as he shouted to the crowd, “Come on, come on,” begging for more and using the energy of the audience to fuel his psychedelic vigor.

If escaping reality is in fact the mission this infamous band, they certainly succeeded in creating an environment in which reality was reduced to something far, far away. Coyne described this escape as, “a great, joyous, energetic party with marvelous, strange sounds.”

As the night came to a close, The Lips chose “Race for the Prize” as the first song of their riveting encore. Before escaping the stage, Coyne said, “This is the greatest fucking show you ever heard.” Normally that might be taken as cocky, but in all honestly, they did bring the goods to back up the statement.

Not ready for this night to end, the crowd didn’t give up easily. The band still had something left, and the audience knew it and demanded it from them. Everyone, including the band, knew what had to happen before the show could be deemed over.

A few moments of eager anticipation passed before the band delivered. As usual, they had saved the best for last.

The Flaming Lips came back on stage and Coyne said, “One last song. Thank you for letting me throw shit at you all night.” The time had come, and they launched into “Do You Realize??”

This was the over-the-top performance the audience had been trying to draw out of them. Smoke and confetti shot from every direction like a colorful rain showering from the sky. Coyne stepped back, took it all in and said with a smile, “Thank you Nashville—for being such freaks.”

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