By Thalia Stopa
The Flaming Lips at Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Monday, May 15th 2017
VANCOUVER – I’d hate to be part of the cleaning crew for the Flaming Lips show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre last Monday – surely, they will be finding confetti in all of the venue’s nooks and crannies for years to come… this must not have come as a surprise, though.
You don’t go to see the Flaming Lips play without expecting a spectacle and, in that respect, the band’s performance at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre last Monday was no game-changer. The torrent of falling paper bits was just one of copious reasons to brave the literal downpour happening outside. Only minutes into the night, dozens of enormous balloons were released from the ceiling and volleyed amongst the crowd. From then on, any time that the lights were lowered between songs, the air erupted with the sound of popping as the rubber orbs that had found their way onstage were methodically burst. Other notable inflatables included three anthropomorphic backup dancer creatures, a rainbow unicorn (which singer Wayne Coyne mounted and sang from), and a massive silver balloon spelling out “Fuck Yeah Vancouver”.
The audience’s initial velvet glove treatment of the latter earned Coyne’s commending. “Most American cities are so filled with violence that, the second I throw that into the crowd, it’s ripped to shreds!” Although the old stereotype of obnoxious, violent Americans and polite, quiet Canadians is more than tiresome, Coyne’s articulation assertion that, “Politeness and respect should always be applauded louder than aggressive bullshit,” felt genuinely heartfelt. It, of course, received its own ample share of raucous applause.
Appropriate for the theatrical venue, Coyne began the band’s set with the bravado and appearance of a maestro. His shrunken suit gave the impression that the musician’s distinct curly hair had been enthusiastically squeezed out of his head. This outfit was soon swapped for a slightly less inhibiting army sweatsuit, complete with fur wristbands and gold chain, concealed beneath his hoodie except for a dollar sign hanging perfectly at crotch level.
As it turned out, this was to be a night split between musical ecstasy, absurd anecdotes, pseudo-political declarations and sober life lessons.
Later in the evening, after a jubilant sing-along to The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, a blow-up rainbow framing Coyne triggered a retelling of the first time the effect was attempted and nearly thwarted by a faulty extension cord. Eventually, the rainbow achieved its full glory which was, as Coyne said, “more spectacular due to the struggle.” The takeaway and esoteric metaphor of the night, was: “Never doubt the rainbow…It might be late, but it’s always there when you need it.”
The most moving song of the night was a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, sung from the confines of large, plastic bubble. The band have been singing this live since Bowie’s passing, about, and although they attempted to stop after about six months, they naturally couldn’t resist playing the song. Now, they elicit any and all performers to pick one of his songs in order to connect the community and get through the sadness.
By the time that the band was wrapping up their set, the party-like atmosphere and energy had noticeably fizzled. One of the final songs of the night was also one of the most melancholic: “The Castle”, off of this year’s Cozy Mlody LP. Still, the Lips were determinedly resilient and not depressed. “Don’t be sad or somber,” Coyne urged the audience, “Keep losing your mind and fight back by screaming…because life is full of pain and we all struggle with it. Fuck it.”Queen Elizabeth Theatre, The Flaming Lips