The Flaming Lips Celebrate Album Milestone at Sold-Out Kings Theatre
June 09, 2023
The Flaming Lips – Kings Theatre – June 8, 2023
As the shell-shocked crowd walked out of Kings Theatre in Brooklyn last night, Louis Armstrong’s classic “What a Wonderful World” played over the PA. It was fitting post-show music for the Flaming Lips, who have built their aesthetic and overarching philosophy around the song’s major themes. On top of their “How do you do?” ethos, the Lips are currently celebrating the 20th anniversary of their breakthrough album, Yoshimi Battles Pink Robots, playing it straight through every night, turning their usual colors-of-the-rainbow spectacle into something even more spectacular. Wayne Coyne and Co. took the appropriately bathed-in-pink stage, literal (inflatable) pink robots towering over them, a sold-out crowd going crazy in front of them and launched into the opening “Fight Test.”
Even as the audience knew what was coming, probably many remembering, as I was, the impact of hearing it for the first time two decades back, the material was fresh and filled with myriad surprises. The first half of the set was explosive with comic-book funk, two drummers matching two keyboardists, getting everyone moving. The Flaming Lips were perhaps rock’s most Instagrammable band, years before Instagram even existed, and with lasers and LEDs and confetti and spotlights bouncing off Kings’ gorgeous interior, there was plenty to look at and photograph at any moment. Every single lyric of the night was flashed, one word at a time, on the screen behind the band, and as the second half of the album/set went deeply inward on songs like “Are You a Hypnotist?” and “Do You Realize?” the audience was able to take in each one, perhaps hitting a little bit differently than they did 20 years back.
After a short break, Coyne led the band through a second set filled with plenty more Flaming Lips favorites, beginning with their classic sing-along “She Don’t Use Jelly.” While the first set was largely devoid of big guitar solos, the second was marked by several noteworthy ones. “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” featured an arcing cathartic one and “Will You Return/When Will You Come Down” included a laser-zap solo accompanied by bubbles floating into the theater. Another electrifying guitar solo came in an unexpected take on Madonna’s “Borderline,” a perfectly Flaming Lips–ified cover of the kind that invites brainstorming on other classics you’d like to hear Coyne take on. The band was determined to play right up to the 11:30 curfew, and the three-song encore, highlighted by more positive party energy from beloved “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” and “Race for the Prize” had everyone thinking to themselves, What a wonderful world. —A. Stein | @Neddyo
Photos courtesy of Silvia Saponaro | @Silvia_Saponaro