“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
So said a wise man once (I would assume).
In writing up this most recent visit of The Flaming Lips, I elected to read up on their last one in 2018, and for the most part, it sounds like it was very much the same in many respects. The same enormous robot appears during Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1, the same inflatable rainbow during Do You Realize??, the same “F*** YEAH MONTREAL” balloon slogan at the end, and the same relentless barrage of confetti. After so many years perfecting their live experience, the band have obviously settled on what works for them, what works for their crowd, and are sticking to their guns. And why not? If it made for an awesome show in 2018, you had better believe it makes for an awesome show in 2022. Heck, maybe even more so, as many of us get back into the live concert scene and may need reminding why we missed it so much during COVID.
It’s an interesting contrast that for a band with such a psychedelia reputation, there’s a truly family-friendly vibe tonight. One small child is hoisted onto their parent’s shoulders during the classic Do You Realize??, and there they remain for a few songs until frontman Wayne Coyne gives them a shout-out right after How??: “its amazing to be back after the Pandemic, beautiful to see your Baby here!” After a trippy cover of Madonna’s Borderline, we are introduced to little Josephine formally, who was just 6 weeks old the last time the band played here. It’s like a mini-reunion!
As you already know, the visuals at a Flaming Lips show are second-to-none. By the time the lights drop to signal the band’s arrival on stage, the room is already filled with smoke, and as Wayne climbs into his giant hamster ball, laser beams blaze around the room, strobes blare, and soon enough, the confetti rains down. It’s a sensory overload right outta the gates! Wayne climbs in and out of the hamster ball throughout the evening, but alas, the days of running out in it over the top of the crowd are behind him; he stays firmly planted on the stage throughout the 2¼ hour show.
The appropriately titled Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear takes audience participation to a whole new level, as Wayne outlines the 3-fold way he would like us to contribute: 1) bark like a dog when prompted, 2) illuminate our cellphone lights for the duration, and 3) smile throughout. MTelus duly obliges; it’s a truly surreal experience to hear hundreds of people bark simultaneously! After the band return to the stage for the encore, a roadie unleashes a small radio-controlled bird around the room, drawing various “oohs” and “aahs” around the room until it almost decapitates me! Worm Mountain is another set highlight, as an enormous inflatable ball is unleashed onto the top of the crowd to bounce it around the room, which is so thick with smoke at this point, the balcony is no longer visible from the front fence where I am. The ball regularly disappears into the fog until coming back at you from a completely different direction and what feels like warp speed!
For all the similarities in the props, the composition in the setlist is markedly different from last time. Of course, there would probably be a mutiny if they didn’t play songs like Yoshimi or Do You Realize??, but there are a few deep cuts thrown in there too. After Your Bats, Wayne notes, “that’s only the second time we’ve ever played that song!” Always There, In Our Hearts returns to the setlist after almost 10 years away too, and feels seismic thanks to the smoke and confetti hurricane that rains down in conjunction with the roaming lasers and strobes. She Don’t Use Jelly is a monster in the live forum, too, its kooky strum sounding thunderous to set off a small section of the floor pogo-ing!
Following a storming Race For The Prize, the show ends with the crowd dismembering the “F*** YEAH MONTREAL” balloon slogan into its component letters, and as the band leaves the stage, much of the crowd ends up kicking in the confetti accumulation on the floor, like it was the first snowfall. Yep, winter may be just around the corner, but this will hopefully be our first winter of normality since pre-COVID (variants permitting). If the shows we have to look forward to are as good as tonight’s, it promises to be a good one!
- Sagittarius Silver Announcement
- Silver Trembling Hands
- Do You Realize??
- Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear
- Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1
- Borderline (Madonna cover)
- Dinosaurs on the Mountain
- Assassins of Youth
- Waitin’ for a Superman
- Always There, In Our Hearts
- Will You Return / When You Come Down
- Your Bats
- Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell
- She Don’t Use Jelly
- Moth in the Incubator
- My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion
- Worm Mountain
- All We Have Is Now
- Race for the Prize
Review & photos – Simon WilliamsShare this :