For once, I ended a year exactly where I started it: at the Flaming Lips’ New Year’s Eve Freak Out! It’s not much of a secret that the Flaming Lips are my favorite band. The first thing you see when you walk into my apartment are five huge posters of their album covers. For a long time, “Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear” was my cellphone ring, and I do own Christmas on Mars and Zaireeka. So of course, I was excited to see them live for my third Lips’ NYE concert, especially when I heard they were going to play The Soft Bulletin in its entirety at midnight.
The first half of the concert was a mix of songs from their last album, Embryonic, and older material. As you can see, Wayne Coyne started by rolling into the crowd in the bubble. Which reminds me, if you are not following the Lips on Twitter, you are missing out: @waynecoyne, @stephendrozd, @tekkbot, and @kliphspurlock.
Our seats were way up there, but the seat assignments were pretty flexible and we moved closer for the second half. But I kind of liked being above everything and able to see the whole colorful crowd and the clouds of confetti.
Of course, a huge part of the fun at every Lips concert is the over-the-top joyous spectacle they put on. There were dancing caterpillars, flowers, and butterflies and crazy video projections behind the band. I especially liked the one of all the animal fangs…I can’t remember what song that went with.
I really enjoyed the performances of the Embryonic songs like “See the Leaves” and “Silver Trembling Hands.” They remind me of the Lips’ older, rougher albums where they were as much about the noise as the sound. Not that I don’t love their beautiful, delicate pieces, but it’s awesome to see a band play a song to bits.
And at the end of “See the Leaves,” Wayne Coyne put on huge hands that shot lasers onto the massive disco ball hanging from the ceiling. The disco ball actually used to be the UFO that they “landed” on stage for some of their concerts. I love that all their props and sets are basically made in Coyne’s backyard.
At midnight (or in reality, a little before, but I guess you’re supposed to have no sense of time at a Freak Out), there was a countdown to 2011 with tons of colorful balloons.
After a short break (during which we scored some closer seats), the stage was cleared of costumed revelers and the band started to play The Soft Bulletin. If you’re not familiar with this amazing album, it was released in 1999 and is sonically rich and layered with beautiful instrumentation. It is without a doubt my favorite album from any band ever.
A few of the songs I’d never heard live before, including “Slow Motion” that was only on the UK release. And their performance of “What is the Light” was just so visually and musically mesmerizing:
But I think the most visually stunning moment came during “Suddenly Everything Has Changed,” where the lights all turned to face the disco ball like it was a sun, illuminating the whole place as a flower grew and then died on the screen. I think this is what I love most about the Flaming Lips. They’re able to sing about life and death with so much directness, yet make it earnest and sincere instead of sappy.
I was also really moved by their performance of “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate,” which Coyne said he doesn’t play often because of the dark feelings it gives him. It was an incredible experience to hear the song and really feel the meaning behind it, the temporariness of life, and it reminded me to appreciate all these fleeting moments. “All we have is now,” to quote another Lips song.
After the end of “Sleeping on the Roof,” we walked out into the frigid air in downtown Oklahoma City, the streets deserted as the bars had already closed. Fellow concertgoers disappeared into the night as we walked all the way down the canal to our car. I felt ready for another year.