There is perhaps no band out there that sings so joyfully about death than the Flaming Lips. So there was perhaps no band more suited to play a two-night stand at L.A.’s Hollywood Forever cemetery (famous final resting place of Phil Spector murder victim Lana Clarkson and late, great Ramones Johnny and Dee Dee), complete with their usual celebratory assortment of confetti cannons, giant Prisoner-style balloons, dancing animals, “Teletubbies” footage, and strobelights so intense they could rouse the dead.
Night one of the Lips’ graveyard rave, on June 14, was a full performance of their 1999 opus The Soft Bulletin, starting with frontgod Wayne Coyne (fittingly rocking his old shaggy ’90s hairdo) emerging via a mystery stage door from another dimension (very reminiscent of The Truman Show’s last scene), then rolling around the audience like a happy hamster in his plastic habitrail bubble. Then, from the orchestral elation of “Race For The Prize” through the cemetery-appropriate corpse hymn “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate,” the epic show was, in the most Flaming way possible, a true celebration of life.
“This song fucks with me–oh yeah, I’m talking about dying,” Wayne told the crowd as he played the latter song. But this was a moment when every Lips fan on that Hollywood Forever lawn, myself included, seemed utterly delighted to be alive.
Night two, June 15, was a rare track-by-track recreation of Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side Of The Moon (on the evening of a lunar eclipse, yet), something the Lips had only attempted a couple times before–but this version was especially special, as the band wove Floyd’s iconic classics with covers of novelty songs from Dark Side’s unofficial cinematic companion piece, The Wizard Of Oz. Starting the concert with a psychedelic, belted-through-a-bullhorn interpretation of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” Wayne the wizard later offered his own brain-boggling versions of “If I Only Had A Brain” and “We’re Off to See The Wizard,” both of which made it obvious we weren’t in Kansas anymore…or maybe not even on planet earth anymore.
Other Dark Side highlights included filth princess Peaches lending her grave-rattling guest vocals to “Great Gig In The Sky” (who knew she could sing like that?), and the Lips doing “Money,” while tossing balloons into the crowd that Wayne claimed were filled not with the usual confetti but with actual cash. (It was a real testament to the lovey-dovey vibe in the audience that no greedy concertgoers popped the balloons right away, but instead let them bounce around for a bit.)
But the real graveyard treat of the week came for Lips fans who, undead-like, refused to sleep Tuesday night…and instead arrived at Hollywood Forever before the crack of dawn June 15th to witness a joint performance of the Lips’ ultimate mortality anthem, Yoshimi’s “Do You Realize,” with local L.A. heroes Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes–while Lips bassist Michael Ivins played the bells in the cemetery’s belltower. Pure, death-defying magic ensued.
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OK, now I can die. Because live shows don’t get any better than this.