The freaks come out at night: The Flaming Lips @ the Paramount 09.28.10

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Santa Claus, a giant banana and a guy dressed up in a pink gorilla costume walk into the Paramount Theatre …

That was the scene at the historic venue Monday night when Oklahoma City’s fearless freaks, a.k.a. The Flaming Lips, delivered an energetic, playful and slightly sinister (in a Wayne Coyne kind of way) set heavy on material from last year’s Embryonic.

As a veteran of several Lips shows I walked into the show more or less knowing what to expect  — massive amounts of confetti, balloons the size of Volkswagen bugs, smoke machines, strobe lights, maybe some fake blood — but leave it to The Flaming Lips to throw a few curveballs my way.

You see, the Lips and I have a bit of history. A few years ago I had the privilege of dressing up like a Teletubby and dancing on stage with the band during its headlining set at Sasquatch! It’s an experience that changed how I perceive music and a measuring stick for how I judge every major concert I attend.

Oh, and in case you’re curious the Santa, banana and pink gorilla guy weren’t the costumed dancers appearing on stage with the Lips.  The costumed dancers for this tour were dressed up like DJ Lance Rock of Yo Gabba Gabba fame which perfectly matched the orange construction crew outfits worn by the band’s roadies. The Santa, gorilla and banana man were fans who showed up in costumes for the show and those are the types of fans the Flaming Lips attract.

Now about those curveballs.

As I said before I’ve seen the Lips several times so I knew what to expect. What I wasn’t expecting was to be challenged by the musical majesty that was hearing material from Embryonic performed live. As written everywhere else, the record is a bit of a return to form that brings back memories of  the group’s earlier psychedelic days. The songs don’t do much for me on record because if I’m going to listen to psychedelic Flaming Lips material I’ll be listening to their back catalog, but I was challenged by the pure power and sonic heft created by the collage of sounds coming from the stage. The music was dark, dense and beautiful all at once. It made me feel like I was witnessing the Lips back in their glory days before the vivid colors, confetti and plushy dancers became staples of their rock ‘n’ roll circus.

“Silver Trembling Hands” was the best drug trip I never took. “Sagittarius Silver Announcement” sounded like one of Tim Burton’s best nightmares. The waves of drums and bass from “The Sparrow Looks Up At The Machine” warped my mind in the best way possible. Oh, and “I Can Be A Frog,” which featured Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock mimicking animal noises, was downright adorable. Once again the Lips completely challenged and changed how I perceive live music.

Of course there were a few obligatory singles thrown into the set list. “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1” was delivered as an acoustic sing along, “She Don’t Use Jelly” made an appearance as the fourth song and “The W.A.N.D.” was the set closer. While it was an Embryonic heavy affair, the lone deep cut from the group’s back catalog was “In the Morning of Magicians,” which really isn’t going back too far for the band considering it was off Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, an album released in 2002. But it’s tough to be picky about song selection when the Flaming Lips consistently deliver unforgettable shows that are well worth the $50 ticket, however, it would’ve been great to see them give (bad pun alert!) lip service to their back catalog considering they’ve been coming to Seattle for 25 years, according to Coyne.

I left the show during the encore, which as always was “Do You Realize??,” one of the most beautiful and poetic pop songs of the past few decades. As with everyone at the Paramount, I walked out of the theater with a massive grin on my face. However, my grin wasn’t from watching Wayne’s contagious stage demeanor or from “going back to the womb” as Wayne suggested the crowd do during foreboding sounds of “The Ego’s Last Stand.” My grin came from having the way I experience and perceive music challenged and from knowing that somewhere out there a pink gorilla and a walking banana happily sang and danced the night away.

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