The Flaming Lips @ Pitchfork 7.19.09

It’s taken me almost a month to post on the Flaming Lips’ show at Pitchfork. The main reason is that it was such a fantastic, overwhelming show that I was having a problem convincing myself to just sit down and try to talk about it. But in the end, I’ve decided to just go for it. Kind of fitting, I guess, since “just go for it” has kind of been the Flaming Lips’ mindset from their very beginning.

After initial reports that they would not be taking part in “Write the Night,” it was announced that the Flaming Lips would in fact be allowing fans to vote on their setlist when they bought tickets. As an above-average Flaming Lips fan, this got my body all tingly. The idea of hearing songs outside of a regular Lips set is one that was too good to pass up (and the main reason I was willing to catch an early flight from South Carolina to attend the festival). Well, they sort of abided by the rules of “Write the Night” and sort of didn’t.

After going through the usual opening of a Flaming Lips show — giant hamster ball followed by “Race for the Prize” — Wayne let us know what their attitude toward the setlist was going to be. He said that setlist the fans voted for was basically what they play at every show anyway. So they’d be deviating from the voted list, but it was in our best interest.

Maybe my favorite deviation from the normal Lips set was the inclusion of “Bad Days,” one of my favorites. They dedicated it to Chicagoan Jim DeRogatis who has always been a big supporter of the band. I didn’t get to vote on the setlist because I got a press pass, but if I had, “Bad Days” would have been high up on the list. Sadly “Frogs” and “Five Stop Mother Superior Rain” were nowhere to be found.

Wayne also dedicated the Fearless Freaks rarity “Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear” to a group of girls who have been following them around on tour. Though I’d only hear the song once, it was still nice to get a rarity. Wayne said they’d never played it before and would probably never play it again. That’s always good to hear.

But even though the setlist was a bit different than normal, the overall show was pretty much the same. It had the same strengths and unfortunately the same weaknesses. On the plus side, the pluses still completely bury the minuses. The show is still an unparalleled display of wonder, highlighted by confetti, lights and giant balloons. However, Wayne still has a tendency to talk for almost as long as he sings. I’d say that they averaged about two minutes of talking between each song. Granted, I’m very interested in hearing what Wayne has to say… but it’s hard for a band to develop a real grip on your attention when they keep the stop-and-start pace of a Flaming Lips show. But really though, it’s such a minor bother that it’s really more of a quirk.

To wrap things up, let me say for the hundredth time: “the Flaming Lips are a must-see live act.” If you haven’t spent any time with their records (especially the early to mid-90s guitar stuff), please do. And when you get the chance, go see the Flaming Lips in concert.

A whole lot more photos available after the break.

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