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Concert Reviews:
Flaming Lips take Fillmore fans on a trip
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

DETROIT -- Local fans have waited awhile for Flaming Lips' return. And they wound up waiting awhile longer on Friday night (May 13) at the Fillmore Detroit.

The show's start was delayed 45 minutes (with doors opening an hour late) by the late arrival of New York-based opening act The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, whose frontman -- John and Yoko's son Sean Lennon -- has enough juice to still get the group a full sound check. That left the crowd standing out on Woodward Avenue to catch sounds coming from the Tigers game at Comerica Park, but fortunately the Lips' fans, a docile and patient bunch by nature, were content to while away the extra time on the sidewalk.

And, of course, anyone familiar with the Lips' live shows knows the Oklahoma art rockers are worthy most any wait. The quintet didn't disappoint on Friday, either, delivering nearly two hours of trippy, ambitious music and stunning visuals that, even marred by some tour-opening flaws (mostly feedback from the P.A.), was a dazzling celebration for which words barely do justice. As frontman Wayne Coyne noted, "Sometimes people say that it's just over the top. It is..We urge you to freak out."

There were lots of familiar trappings. Coyne opened the concert rolling into the crowd encased in a plastic "space bubble" during "The Fear," then fired streamers from a cane amidst a blizzard of confetti and balloons during "Worm Mountain." A camera mounted on Coyne's microphone caught odd close-up angles of both he and drummer Kliph Scurlock, while Coyne strapped on his pair of giant mitts for "Laser Hands," "catching" the green and red beams inside them.

This year's new wrinkle, meanwhile, was an arched HD screen backdrop that seemed to contain virtually every LED circuit on the planet. The sheer brightness and vivid images only bolstered the cutting-edge caliber that is the Lips' stock-in-trade.

There was some new music, too -- "Is David Bowie Dying?," a track that surfaced on the new EP "Flaming Lips 2011: The Flaming Lips with Neon Indian." The Lips have, however, eschewed another album at the moment in favor of releasing its fresh material in various ways, most recently on a computer USB stick encased in a skull made from Gummi-style candy. That's limited the distribution for the new songs, so the Lips mainly stuck to older fare on Friday, dipping into their last studio set -- 2009's "Embryonic" -- for "See the Leaves," "The Ego's Last Stand" and "Silver Trembling Hands" -- as well as reaching back for 1993's "She Don't Use Jelly" (the Lips' only Billboard Hot 100 entry) and also taking on "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)," "Yoshimi Battles the PInk Robots" and the soaring "Pompeii am Gotterdammerung."

The coupling of "What is the Light?" and "The Observer" ended the main set on a mellow note, but the Lips brought the energy back up during the encores with "Race for the Prize" and "Do You Realize??," with a clearly grateful Coyne paying tribute to the crowd for its dedication and exuberant reaction.

Lennon and and his Saber Tooth Tiger gang, meanwhile, suffered no bite from the audience despite the delay. Rather, the quartet's half-hour set was warmly received as tour through its own brand of psychedelic rock, including songs such as "Space Jam," "Last Call" and "Pierrot," as well as a long concluding jam that was tight enough to belie the fact it was this particular lineup's first show together -- and the drummer's first concert ever, according to Lennon.





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