The other day we drove up to Orlando from Miami for a live show by Phoenix. Though not as impressed by their latest album Bankrupt!, expectations for a great live show ran high. They had already impressed during their first show in South Florida a few years back (Phoenix pack arena-sized show into Fillmore theater; Oct. 29, 2010). This show, at the House of Blues, just like the Fillmore show, would sell out. This night’s performance, though not as stagey as the Miami Beach show, still impressed. The band breezed through its repertoire with its usual spunk and warmth. It even felt rather brief.

It began with a short set by Chicago ’90s grunge survivors Urge Overkill. There was a time when these guys would headline these venues about 20 years back. It was interesting to watch these guys live. With rather ebullient ease, they played their hits from back in the day, like “Positive Bleeding,” “Sister Havana” and their cover of “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” made famous for its presence in Pulp Fiction. There was also a new tune. But, beyond five or six seemingly impressed attendees, the interest in Urge Overkill seemed polite if any at all. The group’s music is still rather uneventful barroom rock that chugs along on rudimentary hooks. One guy paid more attention to his video game than the performance (see image below).

Nash Kato and videogame

Phoenix would go on at about 9:45 at night with the first single off the new album kicking off the lively set. The sound immediately revealed that this concert was going to sound amazing, from the quality of the performance to the clarity of the sonics. Even though the set list was weighted by lots of new material, the guys brought so much life to their music with their presence (as last time, dual drummers, too). It was a zippy set. The band mixed together several songs as medleys. At one point singer Thomas Mars shared his joy at being in such an intimate venue after all of the band’s earlier festival dates. Here’s one of the band’s biggest ever hits thanks to a car commercial:

They did something interesting with the epic “Love Like a Sunset,” mixing it with the title track of the new album:

The crowd gave them back lots of energy with lots of raised hands throughout the set, and quite literally supported Mars during the band’s closing number, “Rome” and a reprise of soaring section of “Entertainment.” Between the two songs, he appeared at the back of the pit and crowd-surfed his way to the stage, a classic Mars move he pulls at the end of Phoenix’s shows.

Setlist:

Entertainment
Lasso
Lisztomania
Long Distance Call
The Real Thing
S.O.S. in Bel Air
Sunskrupt! (A combination of “Love Like a Sunset” and “Bankrupt!”)
Too Young / Girlfriend
Trying to Be Cool / Drakkar Noir / Chloroform
Armistice
1901

Encore:

Countdown (Stripped-Down Version)
Playground Love (Air cover)
Don’t
Rome
Entertainment (Reprise)

The group has dates scheduled for the US and Europe scheduled through the end of November. See what’s available here (that’s a hotlink).

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Since I could not make the Boca Raton show this Saturday, I could not allow a chance to miss the Flaming Lips live, so we made the drive from Miami to Orlando on Thursday. It should go without saying that they did not disappoint. Anyone who has attended a Flaming Lips show knows it is much more than watching a group of guys on stage regurgitating their catalog of songs in a live setting. The Lips are an EXPERIENCE (yes, in all caps).

To warm up the Lips fans, who are always the freakiest audience (you’ll see lots of oddball costumes at a Lips show) but still one of the more polite concert crowds, Le Butcherettes took the stage. They did their nasty punk rock sound justice and singer/keyboardist/guitarist Teri Gender Bender threw herself about the stage in dramatic fashion on many occasions. Even though Ms. Bender sang in English, for some reason I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if Mexican electro-punk act Maria Daniela y su Sonido Lasser would open up for the Flaming Lips?” Wayne Coyne would later reveal Le Butcherettes actually hail from Mexico City. Here is a video I made of one of their songs, “Bang!”:

Coyne came off as utterly accessible throughout the show. He appeared on stage several times before his band began their show. He would first show up off stage to cheer on Le Butcherettes (and of course, stir up the audience). He would later thank the audience for so warmly receiving Le Butcherettes because, in his words, “Everyone knows the Flaming Lips has the best audience in the world.” He would also warn the audience of the light show they were about to behold because occasionally some people, including members of the Lips’ crew, might feel a bit ill with the brightness of some of their lights.

As the set up for the Flaming Lips stage continued, he and other band members would routinely show up on stage, with house lights on. It was the beginning of the warmest connection between artist and fan on a live stage I had ever experienced. There is no curtain or any notion of staginess to separate performer and fan at a Lips show. That’s why dressing up is encouraged among fans, and why Coyne rolls around in the audience in a plastic bubble, not to mention constantly assaulting the fans with balloons, confetti and streamers throughout the show. They even have groups of costumed dancers on either side of the stage, who seem to act as chaotic cheerleaders to the band and audience. A Flaming Lips live show is a communal experience.

When the show finally began, I had wondered whether we would see the same famously reported entrance of the group at such a small venue. Sure enough, the band brought their giant screen (akin to one of those things you see in stadiums so attendees in the nose bleed section might be able to see what they are missing on stage). As the music started, the band members made their way out from between the legs of a young woman projected on the screen, with Coyne make the last of the appearances, wrestling from a clear sac below the image. The sac then began to inflate in to a giant sphere. Soon enough Coyne jumped into the crowd, who would roll him about overhead. You can watch the latter part of this entrance in the video below, along with the first full song of the Lips’ show, “Worm Mountain.”

Continuing forth is more of the same from the Lips: epic, prog-rock moments interspersed with noise pop classics like “She Don’t Use Jelly.” I was happy to hear lots of the new songs from their amazing art-rocking new album Embryonic (I think it’s one of their best full-length albums ever, yes, even better than the oft-hyped Soft Bulletin). Here are all the rest of the videos I made of the Lips from that night, all are pretty much complete songs:

Here’s the song where Coyne brought out the giant hands linked to an array of laser lights:

Here’s an obscure tune they did from At War With the Mystics:

One last bit that adds to the coolness of the Lips for me, as a Krautrock fan: Their sound tech had an orange jumpsuit with the Neu! logo on it:

And then there was the mess to clean up afterward…

Oh, what the heck, there were a lot of great images captured at the show, here are more:

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)