Saturday, May 21, 2011
After surviving Jeff Beck and Jon Spencer, the third major concert storm hit a couple of nights ago in the form of the Flaming Lips at the Ryman. I have been really excited to see this show. I had seen them before, but this would be my first up close and personal experience. The whispers on the street seemed to convey concern over whether or not the Mother Church would be down with the sort of party the Lips like to throw, but my hopes were swiftly granted, and they went all out. More on that in a bit.
The opening act was none other than Sean Lennon. He came out in a long coated nautical outfit and played a decent set. His songs were cool and he played a pretty mean guitar. I'm just glad they didn't suck. I've been to too many shows where the support bands were underwhelming to say the least. Lennon was entertaining just enough to get the already freaky crowd ready.
The first of many, many cool stand out moments of this show came when the members of the Lips came out themselves and tested their gear in the change over like a bunch of roadies. Derek Brown came out and made sure all his crazy noises were in order and Wayne Coyne himself appeared and delivered a public service announcement style warning about the flashing lights and other shenanigans with which we were about to be bombarded. He was also happy to casually add, "When they ask you if he did the bubble trick, you can say, F yeah he did".
When the show "actually" started, the members of the band came down a ramp one by one in front of the huge screen, leaving Coyne to be inflated into his huge clear bubble ball, and rolled out into the crowd to surf around and pose like a golden god, before hovering back to the stage and busting into "The Fear". It looked a little like (exactly like) this and this. From that point on, we were berated with tons of confetti, streamers, and hundreds of balloons, along with some top notch psychedelic rock. Not being super familiar with a lot of the songs, I definitely enjoyed the ones I did know, the obvious "She Don't Use Jelly" and "Yoshimi", along with "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song". "Laser Hands" was brought to life by actual prop huge hands that shot lasers out of the palms.
This was one of those shows at the Ryman where the intimacy is so intense you just don't know how to describe it, even when you wait a few days before you blog about it. The fact that they stuffed their huge, festival sized stage rig into that room and created the atmosphere that they made, brought an energy to that building that may never have been seen there before. It was one of unadulterated fun and all out rock bliss. Nary an ass in a pew all night, everyone in attendance seemed to know that this would be a show that Nashvillians would be talking about for generations, much like the Stones at Vandy and, well, Pink Floyd at Vandy. It was like a circus, with a great band, at Willy Wonka's house, in Oz, complete with Dorothy and Scarecrow dancers, caterpillar monsters and other assorted characters, mutants, and all out stage-side partiers. There was literally too much going on on stage to take it all in, and you could tell just how much the band was actually enjoying it too. Coyne would constantly amp up the crowd with a quick "C'mon C'mon" as if to say, "We know we're here putting on a great show, let's hear it".
Closing the second encore with "Do You Realize" was the perfect climax for this extravaganza . It was equal parts emotional and spectacle, draining the last of the confetti and streamers, and bidding a fond farewell to the gorgeous Ryman. Filing out into the real world brought everyone back to Earth and left us all wondering if we would ever see anything like that again. Doubt it.