The Flaming Lips (with Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band & Phantagram)
Coca-Cola Bricktown Events Center
Oklahoma City, OK
December 31, 2011
In pondering a Flaming Lips New Year’s Eve gig, one can only wonder what Wayne Coyne and Company — who put on a New Year’s Eve worthy spectacle at every tour stop — will do to make the evening extra special.
Upon arrival, the question was already beginning to be answered as confetti and balloons were already lining the sidewalk that led up to the Coca-Cola Bricktown Center, the Lips’ Oklahoma City hometown venue that 5th Flaming Lips New Year’s Eve Freakout. Freaks were out in vibrant costumes; there were blue monsters, hot pink tutus, mullet wigs, wildly colored wigs, pandas, and a seemingly endless assortment of bright and shiny attire, all huddled into psyched packs awaiting entry into the extremely sold out general admission two-night run.
Though it was still up in the air as to what the Lips would do, it was clear by the unambiguous look on everyoneâ€™s faces that had full confidence that the night would prove to meet any expectations and the hopeful glimmer on the painted faces and twinkles within the glitter covered eyes, made it almost a certainty that this vibe would carry over to ensure that prospects would be exceeded.
There were only a few hundred people in the theater when openers, Phantogram, ambled onto the stage. Soon however, the room abruptly began to swell with patrons in unison with a montage of Yoko Ono and John Lennonâ€™s home movies scrolled across the backdrop that was hung over the Lips stage setup. It was an emotive moment and one that gave a perhaps needed pause prior to0 what would soon unfold. As the video wound to its close, Yoko Ono and her Plastic Ono Band took the stage.
Seeing member and son of John, Sean, was like seeing a ghost — the spitting image of John Lennon on his and Ono’s son’s face. Though Yoko was difficult to understand, the crowd humored her out of respect for the energy she displayed despite being nearly 80 years old.
Yoko talked about New York, she spoke of times long since passed and how things used to be. She flashed peace signs and told the audience she loved them and was happy to be there. She howled and yodeled over a soundtrack of funky rock beats played by her fantastic band, but the overwhelming reaction that seemed resounding after a couple songs was to giggle uncontrollably while looking around to see if anyone else found the spectacle as funny as they did.
Seeing Ono, a living legend and goddess of oddity, and Sean Lennon was a moment to behold. But in spite of the complete awesomeness of seeing and hearing her get down, run around the stage, scream and howl into the mic, the newness wore off and the spectacle eventually lost its luster. Everyone was now ready for Wayne to come out and get the main event underway.
Wayne came out about an hour later, to explain (as he always does) how the rest of the show would go, being sure to inform the audience about the excessive amount of strobe lighting in the Lips’ performance.
By opening with Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” — that was sung by guitarist Steven Drozd — it was plain to see that the night would be something quite different from what the Flaming faithful has come to expect. This allowed front man Coyne to take his first trip into the crowd via his signature inflatable transparent hamster ball. The amped up hometown crowd gave Coyne quite a run for his money, making it difficult for the master himself to stay afoot. It definitely didn’t bother him, that is if the huge grin on his face meant anything.
Following the trip down 1971’s Master of Reality road and via a trip over “Worm Mountain,” “She Donâ€™t Use Jelly” — the tune that launched the Lips onto the alternative scene in the 90s — made an appearance with concurrent showering rainbow confetti gusting into the crowd. The tune and combined use of theatrics caused the adoring throng to go absolutely nuts — screaming, leaping and singing along while gazing at the marvel of psychedelic scenes that were being displayed on the screen behind the band.
The first few numbers really got the crowd off to a solid departure, ear to ear smiles graced the faces of the temporary Bricktown residents. There is something about these guys that, no matter how many times the “schtick” is witnessed, causes happiness to the point of near tears.
Following the audience participatory number that always revs up a crowd and a fitting song of protest in these turbulent times, “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” Wayne then invited Yoko Ono and band (Sean Lennon on bass and other instruments, Kemp and Eden’s bassist Charlotte Kemp Muhl, Wilco’s Nels Cline on guitar and Yuka Honda, Cibo Matto’s synthesizer and keyboardist player and girlfriend to Lennon) onto the stage for the countdown and balloon drop.
The Flaming Lips’ manager, Scott Booker, came out and cheerfully shared the news that Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornet officially named December 31st â€œYoklahoma City Day.â€
The countdown started at 60 on the big screen as yells and hugs were abound in the sea in front of the stage. Dwindling down to 2012, the new year dawned and hundreds of over-sized balloons as well as a blinding amount of rainbow confetti filled the room, stage included as the once in a lifetime mixed bag of musicians lulled into “Give Peace a Chance” and “Happy Christmas (War is Over),” with choral accompaniment from the entire mass choir in the theater.
While all in the house kissed, hugged and loudly belted new year’s wishes, Coyne showered the crowd with several bottles of champagne… and the show was far from over.
As Yoko and company shuffled off stage, the Lips dove right into a set that began with “See the Leaves,” that was accompanied by the aforementioned neo-psychedelia as well as another one of Coyne’s infamous toys, his huge laser gloves that now are capable of shooting purple and red beams as well as what has been the standard green. The huge hands sent beams toward the smaller disco ball on the stage that bounced back to the huge one in the center of the arena, to the appropriate tune, “Laser Hands.” The effect of the lasers bouncing around the room was euphoric and mesmerizing and the look on the fans’ faces was one of amazement and awe.
After a short obligatory break, the Oklahoma City boys returned for first encore that consisted Beatles covers: “Strawberry Fields Forever,” during which a huge ball of yarn was unraveled by everyone in the crowd with their hands in the air, a psychedelically infused offering of “A Day In The Life,” a spirited take on the always fun “I am the Walrus” that was amplified by the crowdâ€™s “goo goo g’ joobs” and capped by the notoriously long “I Want You (Sheâ€™s So Heavy)” that welcomed Nels Cline back to the stage.
Taking one last breather, The Flaming Lips made their way back to their stage to do what they do best. That is, after all of the pomp and circumstance, visual candies and the like, they left the crowd with a challenge and with the loving provocation and lyrics that stir memories of previous and present lovers and lost and found friends contained in “Do You Realize?” The wafting confetti created a feeling that everything is going to be all right; that all you need is love. Flaming Lips: Mission accomplished.
Sweet Leaf, Worm Mountain, She Don’t Use Jelly, The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, Give Peace a Chance, Happy Xmas (War Is Over), The Process, See the Leaves, Laser Hands, Drug Chart, Pompeii Am GÃ¶tterdÃ¤mmerung, What is the Light?, The Observer
Encore I: Strawberry Fields Forever, A Day in the Life, I Am the Walrus, I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Encore II: Do You Realize?
Click the thumbnail(s) to view more photos from the show by Julie Collins…