The Flaming Lips stopped by the Orpheum Theater Friday night while on the Midwest leg of their current world tour and, yes, they brought a unicorn.
A group that emerged out of Oklahoma in the early 1980s, The Flaming Lips have become the poster-children for psychedelic experimentalism in the modern age—think Pink Floyd meets A$AP Rocky with a dash of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” This is not a joke and, unsurprisingly, their show was equally as mind-bending as it was inspirational.
Los Angeles noise rock trio Cherry Glazerr opened for The Flaming Lips to a surprisingly calm crowd. With a relatively large social media following and an incredibly successful career fostered by SoundCloud co-founder Sean Borman, Cherry Glazerr achieved fame at a legitimately early age—as in, still in high school. There was interest, but it was around the third song when the crowd started headbanging almost as hard as Saint Laurent muse and Cherry Glazerr’s frontwoman Clementine Creevy. It must be hard to command a stage when the audience can see giant balloons and confetti barricaded behind you, but Cherry Glazerr did just fine.
Once the wait was over, Flaming Lips’ frontman Wayne Coyne and his colossal money-sign necklace were ready to take the audience on the (acid) trip of a lifetime, as presented in their newest album, Oczy Mlody—translated from Polish to mean “Eyes of the Young.”
Just as the album presents a story of a drug that makes people dream of unicorns, what the Lips presented was more than a concert; it was a true spectacle. With light-strings hanging from the ceiling, glowing like Christmas time, Coyne and bandmates were part of the art they were creating.
With each transitional period, the audience eagerly awaited to see what was going to happen next. First, there were giant balloons and enough confetti for a parade. For another song, Coyne rode through the crowd on a unicorn that lit up. Yes, you read that correctly. There was even a point where he was in a human hamster ball and relied on fans to pass him around the venue. Who would have thought that a time would come when crowd-surfing was obsolete?
It needs to be said that more than half of the charm that goes into the Lips’ current show stems from the stagehands and lighting technicians that have brought such an abstract concept to life. An album, concert and band like The Flaming Lips demand flawless synchronization, and their current crew surely delivers.
Though The Flaming Lips took an atypical approach to their stage presence, they are an embodiment of rock traditionalism. If there is one aspect of this concert that was even more obvious than the 30-foot blow-up rainbow on stage, it was their stance that an album should not be a list of singles, but rather an experience to be played in full from beginning to end. The Flaming Lips require a level of interactivity and cohesion with their audience in order to maximize the true potential of their art. They may be the faces of experimental psych pop, but the Lips are traditional at heart.
Essentially, whether this was someone’s seventh Flaming Lips concert or they stumbled in by chance, the levels of creativity and freeness were so breathtaking that it was nearly impossible to not log the experience as one of the best concerts Madison has seen in a few years.