It might have seemed a little presumptuous when Wayne Coyne took the stage to declare this night as ‘one of the greatest Red Rocks has ever seen‘. It might have seemed that way if you don’t understand Wayne’s personality. He didn’t really mean that this night would top countless legendary performances over decades of music at the Rocks. You can’t think of Wayne as the 50 year old lead singer of The Flaming Lips. You need to think of him as he thinks of himself — a really big kid with some really cool toys. This is the kid at the local talent show that it going to perform ‘the best show EVER!!!’
So did it live up to his lofty expectations? I think that is all a matter of perspective. Are you a huge Primus fan? Are you a huge Flaming Lips fan? Do you like Pink Floyd? Were you sitting back far enough to see the incredible lightning storm over the front range? Were you sitting close enough to grab some of the cash from the money balloon? Were you a GA ticket holder hijacking a reserved seat? Or did you get your reserved seat hijacked by a GA ticket holder? Did the paramedics have to take you away before The Flaming Lips even took the stage? Or did the person in front of you leave a pool of puke behind when the paramedics took her away?
You see, it all depends on where you were and what you brought in with you. This recap of last night’s fearless freak fest comes from someone who was a big fan of Sailing The Seas of Cheese, but not a huge fan of Primus as a band. Someone who believes The Soft Bulletin is one of the greatest albums ever made and thinks Yoshimi is right there with it — however, doesn’t care for much that came after. Someone who once flew from California to London to see Pink Floyd perform with David Gilmore AND Roger Waters. Someone who’s seat, which was hijacked for the majority of Primus, was in the center of row 32. Someone who could see the lightning, thought the people around him were relatively well behaved (and enjoyed their substances responsibly) and witnessed Wayne‘s spaceball victory stance right in front of him. So, that’s where this review is coming from.
Before Wayne took the stage to explain what we were about to see, Primus played a full set. The familiar chants of ‘Primus Sucks!’ started just after 7:30pm, but it wasn’t until 8:00pm that the band joined the giant spacemen on stage. To Defy the Laws of Tradition was the opening track, and as if to prove nature is a Primus fan, a bolt of lightning struck the Earth in the distance at the exact same instant Les Claypool struck the first chord on his bass. It’s moments like these that have people such as Claypool making statements like ‘the most magnificent venue on the planet‘ before joking he had the same setup in his own backyard. Magnificent venue, magnificent weather and the soothing sounds of Primus, not a bad start. You would be hard pressed to find a more suitable band to share the stage with The Flaming Lips, or vice versa. The common question of the night was ‘are you here for Primus or The Flaming Lips?‘ The common answer? ‘Both.‘
For me, Primus peaked early. The one-two punch of Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers and Tommy the Cat ‘c’mon baby, c’mon baby!’ was the highlight and from there they went into new material and I realized instantly I really don’t want to hear new material from Primus. I understand a ‘guinea pig tour‘ to test out new material, but I honestly couldn’t get into it. Then the seat-jackers came and I couldn’t see and couldn’t move and my overall experience went downhill quickly. I went for a beer and caught most of the set from the sidelines, figuring those people in and around my seat were probably enjoying the show more than I would have anyway.
The set picked up for me when it got dark enough for the screen to come on. Concerts are just better in the dark. Primus ended strong with classics like John the Fisherman and My Name Is Mud and overall I did enjoy most of their show To their credit, a 1 hr. 45 min. opening set is damn impressive and I’m sure the Primus fans in the crowd were stoked to have seen a full set. I personally would have cut it down a half hour to give The Flaming Lips time for an encore of original material, but that’s just my opinion.
Red Rocks security came through the rows asking people to see tickets before The Flaming Lips took the stage. This is something I have never seen before, but proves row 32 wasn’t the only one with the problem. We literally had twice as many people as what should actually occupy a row. Was this show oversold? It certainly seemed so. I did feel bad to those who were told to go up to rows 69 and above, but it was nice to have room to breathe as the heartbeat marked the beginning of the show. The vagina on the screen opened up and out came The Flaming Lips, one-by-one. Wayne was born into plastic and as the air expanded the spaceball, the band played Speak To Me, kicking off a full cover-to-cover interpretation of The Dark Side of the Moon laced with The Wizard of Oz. Poor Dorothy didn’t know what hit her!
If you have seen The Flaming Lips perform, whether at Red Rocks in 2009 or anywhere else in the past few years, you should be familiar with Wayne’s spaceball routine. I’ve seen it before, but never quite like last night. Walking over the audience and up the intense incline of the amphitheatre, he accomplished what I would have said was impossible — he walked to the 31st row, stood still, held up a V for Victory and then rolled his way back to the stage. Impressive to say the least! Once again, Dorothy was horrified!
After his journey through the venue, Wayne joined his band and a cast of characters from The Wizard of Oz (including more than 20 Dorothys) for a megaphone-assisted Over the Rainbow before moving on through the psychedelic trip that is The Dark Side of the Moon. Balloons in the audience, a rainstorm of confetti, visuals that made the sober feel like they were tripping on brown LSD — The Flaming Lips brought the Pink Floyd/Oz connection to life This type of production could only be expected from this band. Time led into We’re Off To See The Wizard and before we knew it a ‘winged angel of voice’ took the stage to fill in for Clare Torry on The Great Gig in the Sky. It was time to move on to Side B, but I don’t think I was alone in wanting that song to last for eternity. I don’t know who this vocalist is, but when Wayne kissed her feet it seemed an appropriate response.
Money came next, but not before an elaborate speech about how money ‘corrupts all good things‘, although it can be a lot of fun as well! The promoters, The Flaming Lips and Primus all pitched in to fill large balloons with cash. Those balloons were sent into the crowd where ‘the people who need it the worst‘ were to ‘try get it the most‘. The song, sung through a megaphone, might have been the one failure of the night…
March of the Winkies was dedicated to Primus. Us and Them brought it down a notch, simply letting the vocals shine before morphing into a full-on rainbow jam session. We were informed that we probably didn’t know the words to If I Only Had A Brain (which turned out to be true), but we were welcome to pretend to sing along. Then we came to the end of the album. The angel with the wings and the voice returned and Any Colour You Like, Brain Damage and Eclipse all ran together to close out one of the best albums ever recorded. An album of ‘songs about us‘. It was 11:45pm and as impressed as everyone was, they were hungry for more — hungry for some Flaming Lips songs.
Songs. Songs that would not come. The Starhead, the Fishhead and all the Dorothys led the dance as the Lips took us through an extended version of Do You Realize?? and then it all ended in a technicolor explosion. The show was over and what a show it was! But that does not change the fact that the most overheard question in the parking lot was ‘why didn’t they do any Flaming Lips songs?!!!’
The Flaming Lips:
Speak to Me
Over the Rainbow
On the Run
We’re Off To See The Wizard
The Great Gig in the Sky
March of the Winkies
Us and Them
If I Only Had A Brain
Any Colour You Like
Do You Realize??
Primus (this might not be exact):
To Defy the Laws of Tradition
Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers
Tommy the Cat
Lee Van Cleef
Over the Falls
Jilly’s on Smack
John the Fisherman
My Name Is Mud
Over the Electric Grapevine