By Alex Sousa, Managing Editor, @TwoFistedSousa
The Twilight Concert series gets ethereal with the space rockers from Oklahoma City
In the realm of live music, The Flaming Lips are legendary. Having heard the stories and praises, they had long been high on my list of live shows to see before I die. Along with my anticipation, though, I worried. Perhaps this show would be different, maybe they would falter. Maybe the $5 ticket price didn’t warrant all the theatrics that other audiences witnessed. And, worst of all, maybe The Flaming Lips would be too grand to be real—maybe their performances had long surpassed their humanity and the artists would be lost in a torrent of pomp and circumstance.
With a cannon blast of confetti, all those fears were gone.
Wayne Coyne, front man of The Flaming Lips has a crude affability and etherealness about him that seems impossible to dislike. Looking like a quasi-futuristic guru—the space-time shaman—Coyne performed atop a UFO draped in cosmic umbilical cord. And as over the top as his personification is, he’s completely bereft of pretense. From thirty feet back and surrounded by sweaty hipsters, Coyne felt approachable, real, and very human. This marks the first time that I’ve seen a big-name artist come onto the stage before a performance while the roadies were still setting up. Coyne waved—almost timidly—then snapped a photo of the crowd with his phone. That same level of casual—of real—interaction remained throughout the show. Laughing, smiling, and complimenting the “fine bunch of freaks” he saw before him.
Beyond the theatrics, the concert itself was a work of art and planning. There’s something to be said for shows that need no introduction, dialogue, or explanation. There’s a certain kind of show that requires it, and there isn’t anything wrong with that, but this show was so beautifully paced and planned that their passion for music, performance, and for their fans was evident in it. Their show is so much more than a performance; it’s an experience, which is why they’ve gained so much notoriety. Coyne never explained a song, never introduced the band, never told us when the end was coming. He just stood atop his spaceship and let the audience feel every rise and fall of the music—just as they had, no doubt, intended.
As I mentioned, Coyne did speak, interacting with the guests of what he called the “freakiest party of the summer.” He reminded us to love each other, as—ultimately—that’s what the show was about. It’s always pleasant to watch a show that tells a story; that has a theme throughout. And, as subtlety is not their forte, they made sure the audience realized it. In place of the usual awkward applause before the encore, they opted to have the audience chant “love” over and over as the word flashed in bright, forty-foot lettering across the backdrop of the stage. A hundred times, two-hundred, maybe even a thousand times we shouted the word in harmony—enough that it could have, should have, lost all meaning, but it didn’t. Each time was a reminder of that this most basic yet consistently intricate of human connections was all that really mattered.
When they did finally return to the stage, Coyne again climbing atop his spaceship altar, leading the audience in what was to be my favorite part of the concert. I had enjoyed the whole show, and they had certainly done right by me in regards to their reputation as grade-A performers, but the encore elevated the entire experience to be more than just unforgettable. It was a testament to why, not just music, but live music is so important.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “Do You Realize,” what is probably their most famous song, but this time was by and far the most impactful. Singing it patiently—tenderly even—with the crowd, Coyne just yards away, the words impacted me more than they ever have before. “Do you realize, that everyone you know someday will die?” we all sang together. “But instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know you realize that life goes fast, it’s hard to make the good things last. You realize the sun doesn’t go down, it’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning ‘round.”
It was an almost spiritual experience; a moment that seemed so pure and so beautiful that I almost wished it had been my last. It was a moment when only the “now” mattered, when all we had were the words we were singing and they landed with such honesty that even the most cynical had to think of all the things he’d never said and how much he wished he had said them. It was a moment of such singular clarity that all of the arbitrary and supplementary things that we fill our days with melted away. And in that moment of “now,” what else was he—that most bitter of cynics—going to think of but her most beautiful face and all the hours he had wasted not telling her?
It was a moment where life seemed so simple, a moment that reminded the listener how uncomplicated life actually is. All we have, the only thing that’s real, is the moment. And in that moment, love is the only thing that matters. And for that cynic, he knew that everything he had ever really wanted was right in front of him, just within reach. If only he could keep that clarity of mind and recognize that “now” forever.