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After more than 30 years, The Flaming Lips are still one of music’s most wildly entertaining live acts

The Flaming LipsBy Josh Herwitt //

The Flaming Lips with Klangstof //
The Theatre at Ace Hotel – Los Angeles
May 9th, 2017 //

Say what you want about The Flaming Lips’ music. You might call it strange, humorous or even childish. I guess that’s to be expected when one of your most popular songs is called “She Don’t Use Jelly” and another goes by the name of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”.

But not too many rock bands have been able to say they put on a show quite like Wayne Coyne and company have for more than three decades now. When it comes to live performance, The Flaming Lips are one of those bucket-list bands every live music fan should see at least once. Even as Coyne nears the age of 60, the Lips haven’t forgot how to entertain a crowd, whether it’s at a music festival or at one of their own stand-alone gigs.

I had caught The Flaming Lips live a handful of times prior to their show at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in LA, but never had I watched them perform in a theater, let alone one with a capacity of only 1,600. The show, not surprisingly, was sold out, and for a weeknight, it was impressive to look around the venue’s lobby and see a number of audience members dressed in costume for the occasion. And maybe it was only fitting considering this latest tour was named “There Should Be Unicorns” after the band’s Oczy Mlody track featuring Reggie Watts.

The Lips, of course, made sure to play that song, and even though it was without Watts, it still proved to be an unforgettable moment due to the fact that Coyne rode a life-size unicorn from one end of the stage to the other as he belted out lines like “Yeah, there should be unicorns / The ones with the purple eyes / It should be loud as fuck / Hope the swans don’t die” to open the tune while wearing a big smile across his face. If that’s not psychedelic to you, then I don’t know what is.

The Flaming Lips

At any Flaming Lips show, there are always an array of theatrics. From confetti cannons and balloons to rainbow visuals, there’s a lot more to the performance than simply just the music. But that doesn’t mean the music comes second to the rest of the “show.” Halfway through the set, Coyne and his fellow bandmates — Michael Ivins (bass, keyboards, vocals), Steven Drozd (guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, vocals), Derek Brown (guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocals), Jake Ingalls (keyboards, guitar), Matt Duckworth (drums, percussion, keyboards, vocals) and Nick Ley (percussion, drums, samples) — unleashed an apropos cover of David Bowie’s 1969 hit “Space Oddity” considering it felt like we could have been living on another planet inside The Theatre at Ace Hotel.

Though the setlist hasn’t changed much since the Lips embarked on their tour in support of this year’s Oczy Mlody, they’ve assembled a collection of songs that any fan can get behind. In addition to dialing it back to the late 90’s with tracks like “Race for the Prize” and Waitin’ for a Superman” from The Soft Bulletin, the Oklahoma City sextet also worked in “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)” and “The W.A.N.D.”, two of my favorite cuts on the group’s 2006 studio album At War with the Mystics.

With the show extending past midnight, the Lips returned to the stage for one last hurrah, a three-song encore that made us feel young again (even for those of us who aren’t anymore). Yet, as they put the finishing touches on the night with “Do You Realize??” off their critically acclaimed 2002 LP Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, I couldn’t help but think that after almost 35 years on the scene, The Flaming Lips — unicorns and all — still throw one hell of a party.

How’s that for a Tuesday night?

Setlist:
Race for the Prize
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1
There Should Be Unicorns
Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)
What Is the Light?
The Observer
How??
Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)
Feeling Yourself Disintegrate
The Castle
Are You a Hypnotist??
The W.A.N.D.
A Spoonful Weighs a Ton

Encore:
She Don’t Use Jelly
Waitin’ for a Superman
Do You Realize??

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