Saturday, August 2, 2003

Flaming Lips enchant circus-like crowd


Concert review

By Jeff Wilson
Enquirer contributor

The Flaming Lips took their time entering Bogartís stage Friday night, allowing three bands to precede them, but it was worth the wait, and for that matter the opening acts werenít slouches.

Of those bands, The Gift played the longest set (45 minutes) and the most convincing. Fronted by lead singer Sonia Tavares, The Gift quickly won over the sold-out crowd with songs that were dramatic and moody and sonically interesting.

Next came Bloodthirsty Lovers, followed by the one-man Mt. Egypt, whose faint vocals and acoustic-guitar strumming could barely be heard over a sold-out crowd that grew increasingly impatient for the headliners. Clearly the wrong place in the rotation.

The Flaming Lipsí sound is centered around the high-pitched voice of lead singer, guitarist and lyricist Wayne Coyne, who often seems to sing at the edge of his range. At times he delivers cosmic lyrics and egregious rhymes so fervently you wonder if you should take him seriously, especially when fans dressed as animals are dancing around the stage and oversized balloons are floating through the air, as was the case Friday night.

In harmony with the circus atmosphere were keyboard samples that conjured up the early days of psychedelia and prog rock. Underneath it all, though, the nearly 90-minute set, which drew heavily from Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, primarily consisted of simple, well-crafted pop music.

In concert the songs rocked more than on record, partly because the Lips are again using a live drummer. At first that seemed to their detriment, as the band sounded cluttered and bottom-heavy. The openers, ìRace for the Prizeî and ìFight Testî are better on record.

Eventually, though, everything gelled. A warm, dreamy pop song, ìIn the Morning of the Magiciansî mesmerized a crowd of both younger fans and veterans of the Lipsí earlier and much punkier days.

A succinct ìDo You Realizeî rocked convincingly, and the set-closer, Pink Floydís ìBreatheî from Dark Side of the Moon was the best thing they played thus far.

Opening with ìWhat is the Lightî from Soft Bulletin, the encore lifted the performance yet another notch. The Lips sounded tighter than at the beginning of the show and more adrenalized. The show ended with Wayne Coyne playing a hypnotic electric guitar solo over an enchanting melody. Calmer now, the animals on the side of the stage seemed caught in a spell.




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