Arts, Off Campus

Boston Calling Day 2: The Flaming Lips Perform Eclectic Show

On the second day of Boston Calling on May 27, attendees had the choice to go to either Alanis Morrissette’s set on the Happy Valley Red Stage or trek to the Blue Stage to see The Flaming Lips perform in a more secluded setting. By the end of the show, lead singer Wayne Coyne had successfully pulled out all of the stops to ensure The Flaming Lips’ performance was unforgettable. 

The band garnered a variety of fans to see its show, including some eclectically dressed to match The Flaming Lips’ futuristic style and an older audience that could have experienced the initial releases of the band’s discography in the ’90s. Nonetheless, followers of The Flaming Lips may be well aware that the band takes live shows seriously. 

Cheers from the audience grew in volume as giant pink robots inflated on stage and towered over the band while it took its position to begin the set. The group began its performance with “Fight Test” and encouraged many fans to sing along. 

Coyne dressed in an extravagant full suit while drummers Nicholas Ley and Matthew Kirksey wore matching long green wigs as they played side by side throughout the performance. 

Perhaps knowing that the festival would bring a general audience, not necessarily a group of die-hard fans, Coyne introduced the band, the pink robots, and the group’s set. 

“[Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots] came out in 2002 … now coming on 21 years … we will be performing the whole album and some more songs after,” Coyne said. 

“One More Robot / Sympathy 3000-21” and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1” followed as the Flaming Lips performed the entire album in order. Coyne encouraged the crowd to cheer and get excited for the music, asking people to sing along during vocal breaks.

This effort was made easy by The Flaming Lips’ emphasis on theatrics during live sets. While Coyne sang his tracks, a backdrop displayed mesmerizing patterns and imagery, as well as the songs’ lyrics. 

During “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 2,” Coyne blasted a confetti cannon into the air and onto a crowd of fans who jumped up to catch the flying colorful strings. 

An array of beach balls and giant confetti-filled balloons bounced around. Fans threw them until they eventually popped. Stage crews repeatedly blew up the pink robots after they deflated.

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots carries a message of existentialism and deals with the relationship people have with death and a changing world. Through cryptic lyrics, fantastical imagery, and psychedelic synths, the band successfully turns the dreadful topic into enjoyable music. 

“As the dawn began to break / I had to surrender / The universe will have its way / Too powerful to master / Oh,” Coyne sings during “In The Morning of the Magicians.”

“Do You Realize??” was expectedly the crowd’s favorite track as it is The Flaming Lips’ most streamed song on Spotify. The repetitive guitar strumming overlaid with swooning synths combined for a bitter-sweet sound that was further emphasized through the song’s key modulation. A giant rainbow prop was blown up around the singer as the song played. 

“You realize the sun doesn’t go down / It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning around / Do you realize / That everyone you know someday will die,” Coyne sings. 

The crowd shouted the lyrics as Coyne’s voice broke during the high note of the chorus. Machines shot up smoke and confetti at the song’s peak, fluttering onto the audience. 

The combination of the increasing volume of the music, props, and rainbow strobe lighting, was overstimulating and made for a spectacular performance of the band’s greatest hit. 

Coyne underwent a costume change during the set and sported a robe with a superwoman figure graphic during “She Don’t Use Jelly.” Fans shouted in surprise as balloons popped over their heads and sprayed confetti. 

“Thank you, we’re gonna keep going, we’re gonna do a couple more songs,” Coyne said. 

Coyne entered a large clear plastic ball for the next few songs as The Flaming Lips played tracks from The Soft Bulletin, including “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton,” with fast-tempoed bursts that ignited the audience to jump along. 

The Flaming Lips concluded with “Race for the Prize” off the same album, complete with more bursts of confetti, flashing white lights, and a large balloon message Coyne held up that read “F—k Yeah Boston Calling.” He threw the balloons into the crowd at the song’s end, and the extended instrumentals on the track played over his message of thanks to the audience. 

The floor was littered with beer cans and colorful tissue paper as fans rushed to see headlining act The Lumineers just minutes after. 

June 7, 2023