What a way to start a concert!
At the Santa Barbara Bowl on Friday night, as the band played the theme from John Carpenter's movie Halloween, singer Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips climbed up onto a platform decorated with a Medusa-worthy tangle of LED rope lights, emerging from what looked like a giant shower cap to be seen to be wearing a blonde wig and a white prom dress. He picked up a bouquet of roses, then a girl dressed as Miley Cyrus from the MTV Video Music Awards came out on the shoulders of a man in a bear suit and dramatically dumped a bucket of fake blood onto Coyne in a whacked-out homage to the famous scene from the film Carrie.
At this point, red confetti and a couple dozen giant red balloons shot out into the audience, while the music from Halloween continued to blast from the stage.
The Flaming Lips had arrived, in a way befitting the night after Halloween and with the Bowl decorated for Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead. Later, Coyne commented, "It's a great wicked f***ing pleasure to be here and do this. ... We kind of like to dress up anyway, so we don't need too much of an excuse. And it looks like some of you guys are the same way."
The rest of their concert included more theatrics, such as a dancing Gumby during the song "The W.A.N.D." and Coyne somewhat creepily holding a baby doll during "Look ... The Sun Is Rising." The latter was the first of several songs from their new album, The Terror, the bleakest of the band's career and certainly not my favorite of the band's oeuvre — that would be the madcap alt rock from their Transmissions of the Satellite Heart era that I enjoyed in my younger years, and which was sadly not on the program.
But I do realize that life goes fast, and it's hard to make the good things last, which brings me to the show-closing stunning performance of their hit "Do You Realize??," a profound meditation on the inevitability of death housed in a catchy melody.
The evening began with an enjoyable set by the Ventura-based band Rey Fresco, followed by an energetic performance by Aztec dancers in the pit of the Bowl.
Then came Tame Impala, who blew it up with their fuzzy, phased and flanged guitar-driven songs. Highlights included the brilliant "Desire Be Desire Go," and the Black Sabbath meets Syd Barrett meets Blue Cheer stomp of "Elephant," which morphed into a psych funk cover of Michael Jackson's "Thriller. Plus, throughout their set there was a screen showing cool low-resolution geometric patterns sync'd to Kevin Parker's guitar.
For a special treat, Coyne — in a pre-Carrie green lizard onesie — joined in to sing The Flaming Lips' "Are You a Hypnotist??"
The pair of performances by The Flaming Lips and Tame Impala was a trippy way to close out a fine Santa Barbara Bowl season, which included concerts by New Order (with opening set by Johnny Marr), Sigur Ros, Sting, Robert Plant, Belle and Sebastian, Steely Dan, Heart, The Postal Service, fun., The Lumineers, Depeche Mode, The Avett Brothers, Atoms for Peace, and more. Until next year ...
Setlist for Tame Impala
Solitude Is Bliss
Why Won't They Talk to Me?
Desire Be Desire Go
Half Full Glass of Wine
Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind?
Elephant, including Thriller (Michael Jackson cover)
Be Above It
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Are You a Hypnotist?? (The Flaming Lips cover, with Wayne Coyne singing)
Setlist for The Flaming Lips
Halloween Theme (John Carpenter cover)
Virgo Self-Esteem Broadcast
Silver Trembling Hands
Look ... The Sun Is Rising
Race for the Prize
Try to Explain
Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die
A Spoonful Weighs a Ton
Do You Realize??
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.