Swarms of college students, adults and hipsters flooded into Cornell University’s Barton Hall on Sunday night to witness one of the most well-known live bands deliver a sold-out performance at Big Red.
Many concertgoers went decked out in full Flaming Lips garb. Some were dressed in costumes of a Powerpuff Girl, a strip of bacon and even a couple of bananas. These were only a couple of the eccentricities that showed just who was a Lips veteran and who was a newbie at the concert.
The band came onstage to the thunderous cheers and applause of its adoring fans, waiting to pay homage to Wayne Coyne and company. The band did not simply walk out onstage, however. They were “birthed” by a woman depicted on the arc-shaped lighting board at the back of the stage. There was no turning back from there, as drummer Kliph Scurlock removed his shoes to get comfortable.
Whirling confetti, balloons, streamers and laser beams overtook the crowd, and that was just the first song. Lead singer Coyne encapsulated himself in an inflated hamster ball and rolled his way around the crowd, much to the amusement of those keeping him aloft.
Coyne set high expectations for the crowd in front of him. “Let’s see if we can be the second most legendary show,” he said, referencing the 1977 Grateful Dead performance at the same location. The crowd erupted with screams and cheers, demonstrating its willingness to accept the challenge.
Throughout the performance Coyne danced and spun around the stage as he fed off the emotion of the crowd. His vocals captured a realness and spiritual essence that captivated the audience. It felt as though he was singing to each person individually, which was a nice change from listening to music on a CD. Coyne’s voice, which is somewhat stifled on the band’s studio material, surged from the speakers with tenacity and power.
Steven Drozd’s background vocals provided an ethereal sheen on top of Coyne’s, as his falsetto soared high into the rafters of the World War I airplane hangar. Drozd masterfully wielded his half-a-double-neck guitar and slammed away at the blacks and whites of his keyboard, adding to the intensity of the performance.
Coyne preoccupied himself by stabbing stray balloons with his guitar and leading the crowd in floor-shaking choruses as attendees reached toward him with an insatiable desire for arena rock.
The band charged through fan favorites “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” “She Don’t Use Jelly” and “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song.” Concertgoers readily took up the choruses of these Flaming Lips’ mainstays as Coyne smiled down on his captivated audience with approval. “Be as ridiculous and emotional as you like,” commanded Coyne.
One of the highlights of the show was the band’s first encore. The band took to the stage once more with openers Stardeath and White Dwarfs to play a noteworthy rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse,” from “The Dark Side of the Moon.”
The other highlight was during the second encore when the band played a heart-wrenching version of “Do You Realize??,” which was voted the official rock song of Oklahoma — where the band originally formed. The night reached an emotional high as all hands were in the air groping for the plumes of confetti that descended upon the masses. Coyne thanked the audience profusely and seemed visibly moved by the uproarious response the band garnered from the gracious crowd. If it was not the second most legendary performance at Barton Hall, it was pretty close.