Do you realize
Flaming Lips were never taken seriously by the masses because of that damned overplayed song about Vaseline and everything else gooey. That is, however, until the Lips’ recent tour as the backing band and opening act for Beck, whose latest album, Sea Changes, garnered more press than the magic powers of Bill Clinton’s penis.
At Oakland’s legendary Paramount Theater—a majestic 3,000-seat venue whose gorgeous art deco interior and ornate lobby almost kept people from focusing on the bands—the second night of a two-night stop found Lips singer Wayne Coyne in a jovial, playful mood, commanding the attention of the crowd with antics that were over the top and nonsensical.
More than 15 people dressed in bunny suits waved flashlights amid a backdrop of smoke machines and mind-numbing visuals. During the Lips’ brief (40-some minute) set, multi-instrumentalists Michael Ivins and Steven Drozd managed to bridge the gap between Beck and Flaming Lips fans through the power of song. On such tunes as “Do You Realize” and the title track “Yoshimi Vs. the Pink Robots,” the crowd’s attention was awe-inspiring.
The bulk of the set list focused on material from The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi, including that damn “She Don’t Use Jelly” song—perhaps the band’s only mediocre moment.
Beck, the evening’s headliner, started out by playing acoustic numbers from his Bongload Recordings era and even threw in a truncated version of the Lips’ “Do You Realize,” which, to his detriment, was the highlight of his set.
After a handful of numbers, the curtain dropped, revealing Coyne, Drozd and Ivins, along with a few backing musicians. Coyne stole the show—making silly faces and doing hilarious visuals behind an otherwise serious Beck.
Maybe it was Beck’s demeanor, or lack thereof, that made even his brightest moments lose their luster. Perhaps his disappearing act from the touring circuit for the last two years has caught up with him. Either way, his takes on tracks from Midnight Vultures and Odelay seemed uninspired and unfocused, and his presence echoed that of an overexposed, over-hyped washout.
Beck had to follow the Flaming Lips, a difficult task that should be left for snotty English bands who haven’t been schooled by the big boys. Perhaps the daunting task should’ve been left on the drawing-room floor, as Beck’s set lost momentum and spiraled downward.
Nevertheless, it was good watching Oklahoma’s Flaming Lips turn the tables in their favor. It’s about time.