Review: The Flaming Lips infuse concert with playful theatrics

Review: The Flaming Lips infuse concert with playful theatrics

The alt-rock veterans created a high-energy spectacle Friday at Syracuse's Crouse Hinds Theater.
Published: November 14, 2021
The Flaming Lips perform Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, at Crouse Hinds Theater in Syracuse.
Fans watch as The Flaming Lips perform at Syracuse's Crouse Hinds Theater on Friday.

By definition, concerts are musical performances. But for a concert by The Flaming Lips, it always seems to slide toward the performance end of the spectrum.

That’s exactly what happened Friday as the maverick alt-rockers showered Syracuse’s Crouse Hinds Theater with streams of confetti and bounced an 8-foot inflatable ball across the near-capacity crowd.

The Lips’ circus-like atmosphere with an air of uncertainty as to what may happen for the next song effectively created a communal experience that fans are desperately craving in the age of masks and social distancing.

Even before the Oklahoma act’s show formally began, founder and frontman Wayne Coyne casually meandered onto the stage to show off his latest prop. The 60-year-old creative ringleader cautioned the audience of the potential risks they were about to witness before hoisting a mechanical bird that circled above the audience for a minute and then successfully landing back on stage.

From there the Lips multimedia extravaganza was unleashed for the next two hours with a barrage of colorful lights, a two-story-tall pink robot and Coyne bouncing around inside his own oversized transparent bubble for most of the show.

The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne sings
The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne sings "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" standing underneath an inflated robot.

The Lips front-loaded its set with more recognizable songs including “Do You Realize??” and “She Don’t Use Jelly” that built significant energy among the crowd before settling into more recent material from a 22-album catalog over the past four decades. Coyne stoked the crowd with calls for screaming, which the 1,500 or so fans gladly obliged.

The downside to the band’s song-specific theatrics is that it did slow the show’s flow with a delay between every song for stagehands to inflate, deflate or position the next oversized prop. Coyne was good about filling these moments with brief monologues addressing concert safety in light of the recent Astroworld tragedy and optimism about live music’s significance to the human spirit.

Race for the Prize” served as a perfect celebratory conclusion to a festive evening with even more confetti blasts, a backdrop of colorful animated rainbows projected on stage and a triumphant feeling of jubilance throughout the theater.

The Lips had one last surprise for local fans, this time delivered in the form of oversized balloon letters launched by Coyne into the crowd spelling out the band’s ultimate message about being able to tour and perform in front of a live audience again: “F— Yeah Syracuse.”