A screen of lights created by independent threads hanging from the roof of the stage began to flicker. Suddenly, a colorful screen on the backdrop of the stage was lit with a rainbow imagery that palpitated to the rhythm of the music. The lead singer, Wayne Coyne, came onstage amidst a sea of confetti, glitter, and gigantic balloons.
People jumping up and down to the rhythm of the music made the floor tremble. The combination of the lights and screen, as well as the coordination of the lighting with the tempo of the music, made it seem like a carefully managed art installation.
The Flaming Lips are an American rock band, formed in Oklahoma in 1983. The sound the band has been exploring since its creation utilizes multi-layered, psychedelic rock arrangements with elements of space rock.
The Flaming Lips concert was held in the Riviera Theatre. The venue, as well as the band, made the concert an intimate, trippy, rich experience. Coyne, despite being relatively advanced in age at 56, urged everyone to be “fucked up, and to have the best fucking party you can.”
The Flaming Lips are known for staging psychedelic shows that are visually interesting for the audience. The Chicago show on April 17 was no exception. The concert included Coyne strolling through the audience in a plastic unicorn covered in felt, an inflatable rainbow, and life-size puppets.
The band’s attention to staging and detail resulted in the Flaming Lips being named as one of the “50 Bands to See Before You Die” by Q magazine in 2002.
This band has continually worked on making their live shows memorable. They constantly add new effects, props, and elements to their performances. During his Chicago show, Coyne mentioned that the inflatable rainbow was a new element to the performance that had not been used before.
Coyne also paid homage to the late David Bowie, with a cover of “Space Oddity.”
Coyne did Bowie justice with an overwhelming performance. He stepped into a man-sized plastic bubble and traversed the audience as he sang. The audience was in awe as they sang along with Coyne. The concert hall became dark, except for projections of stars, and a strong spotlight that followed Coyne as he traversed the venue in his bubble.
Bowie’s “Space Oddity” is not the first time the Flaming Lips covered other artists; in 2008, they released a cover album of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” The Flaming Lips have been known for their collaborations with other artists, including Neon Indian, Bon Iver, and Miley Cyrus.
They closed their set with one of their most famous songs, “Do you Realize” — the first single from their 2002 album “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.” The audience had been impatient for this song.
The audience spilled out of the venue looking mostly satisfied. However, I have a feeling that they were craving another Flaming Lips’ show, just like me.