It was obvious something weird was about to go down when Wayne Coyne climbed atop the massive fiber optic pedestal. In a quick moment, Coyne stepped back as a member of the band’s road crew rushed out to hand him a baby doll.
Cutting straight away into the opening track of their recent concept album “The Terror,” beams of light shot through the Gigeresque platform and its surrounding constructs, with The Flaming Lips frontman alternately cooing the baby and howling out through his shroud of darkness.
The song gave way into the new album’s title track, where haunting tones peeled away into the song’s sudden and voiceless chorus. Fog filled the air, lights shot out in every direction, and confetti burst out through the Oakdale Theatre. The song died down, and Coyne said simply “I almost forgot my baby.”
And so the night went.
It was the opening salvo of a stunning performance by The Flaming Lips, filled with beaming strobes, laser clusters, and ray guns that was simply, for lack of a better word, epic.
The concert was the band’s only New England performance this summer, and one of their only announced shows with the British psych legends Spiritualized. It was also a concert that nearly didn’t happen.
Shortly before the concert was to be announced for the Simsbury Meadows, the venue pulled out. Days later a second venue, Windsor’s Summerwind, withdrew over the graphic content of the band’s music video.
Promoters Manic Productions, Premier Concerts, and The Bushnell saved the show by moving it to the Oakdale, though the necessary Live Nation fees coupled with all the venue confusion likely dissuaded some concertgoers. The problems were something that Coyne himself addressed during the show.
“Some conservative and concerned organization thought The Flaming Lips were too radical to play,” Coyne said to a round of boos from the audience. “The show was in jeopardy several times. We tried to assure them that we come in peace, that our music is about love.”
“The promoters were very determined … and overcame these wrong minded people. So here we are standing in front of you, playing this radical stuff.”
Most of The Flaming Lips’s material came off the newest album, though it wasn’t all horror movies and creepy babies. The group delved back to play a lush and downbeat “Race For The Prize” backed by glowing rainbows, along with “All We Have Is Now” from 2002′s “Yoshimi.”
That song alternated into a cover of Devo’s “Gates Of Steel,” before the sublimely overt “Turning Violent” nearly rattled any sitting audience member out of their seat. They came back on for an encore first with the lovely “Do You Realize?” before finishing with “Always There… In Our Hearts.”
Spiritualized’s performance was much more subdued but still strong. Singer Jason Pierce (also known as Jason Spaceman, for his membership in the influential group Spacemen 3) sat the whole time sporting aviator sunglasses glasses and a casual attitude. It could be chalked up to being too cool for school or a persisting perception disorder, but the sitting most likely it had to do with recent liver disease treatments.
Spaceman and company were bathed in red and blue light while swimming in seas of thick reverb and shrouded vocals, inevitably crashing into waves of blissfully psyched out shredding. Strobes would mist out in every direction along with chords, as Pierce explored his catalogue.
He delved from “Headin’ for the Top Now” back to 2003′s “She Kissed Me.” “Hey Jane” from last year’s “Sweet Heart Sweet Light” was counterpointed with “Electricity” off of 1997′s breakthrough “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space.” The set closed with a blast through the latter album’s “Come Together,” smashing into a heavily distorted guitar freakout that ended their time on stage.