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Story by Tony Bonyata
I am not one of them.
Last Wednesday in Milwaukee, after witnessing the band's fountainhead, Wayne Coyne, commandeer this hallucinogenic caravan through many of these now familiar elements - ones that have made The Lips' shows the single most engaging live experience (both visually and sonically) of the last decade - it was just further evidence that this overblown spectacle of chaotic mayhem and undeniable fun may just, in fact, never get old.
Their show at the Riverside Theater was in support of their most recent full-length album, Embryonic, and, perhaps more than any of the records they've released over the last decade, the hazy, brooding, psychedelic mood of the music from this record proved the perfect backdrop for The Flaming Lips' out-of-this-world live experience. Amid the cannons of confetti, giant dancing princess butterfly larvae, eight-foot catfish clad in biker leather and huge stage-ensconcing projections of gyrating nude women and other disorienting, shape- shifting videos, Coyne, with his shoulder-length salt-and-pepper curls and short, patchy beard, along with fellow Lips Michael Ivins, Steven Drozd and Kliph Scurlock, focused heavily on their three most recent efforts - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (2002), At War With The Mystics (2006) and last year's Embryonic. In fact, the band only performed two songs from their eight pre-Yoshimi albums through their entire set, "Waitin' For A Superman," from The Soft Bulletin (1999) and "She Don't Use Jelly" from Transmissions from the Satellite Heart (1993). During their encore, however, they did manage to dip back much further into another group's back catalogue for their wonderfully mind- bending takes of "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse" (both from Pink Floyd's 1972 Dark Side Of The Moon, an album which The Flaming Lips also recently recorded track-for-track and released in both digital format and limited vinyl LP.)
While many great numbers from their past were missing from the setlist, the focus on their more recent work (notably the trippy "Worm Mountain," "Silver Trembling Hands," "See The Leaves" and "Powerless," all from Embryonic) only solidified how relevant The Flaming Lips still are nearly a quarter-century after releasing their debut full- length Hear It Is in 1986.
American author Erica Jong was once humorously quoted as saying "Every country gets the circus it deserves. Spain gets bullfights. Italy gets the Catholic Church. America gets Hollywood." And now the nation of Fearless Freaks - an enduring term that Coyne originally gave to himself and his brothers for the brutal backyard football games of their youth, and has since grown to encompass not only The Flaming Lips as a band, but their ever-expanding fanbase - has a circus that they can proudly call their own.
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