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Flaming Lips is pure bliss

Lead singer and ringmaster Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips rolls above the crowd in a giant inflatable ball called a “space bubble” at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg on Wednesday night during the group’s first song. The band formed in Oklahoma City in 1983.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Lead singer and ringmaster Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips rolls above the crowd in a giant inflatable ball called a “space bubble” at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg on Wednesday night during the group’s first song. The band formed in Oklahoma City in 1983.

ST. PETERSBURG — Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination … and a grinning video minx with pulsating naughty bits … and a 49-year-old dude crowd-surfing in a "space bubble" … and a 3-year-old's glorious floating dream of balloons, confetti and streamers.

And that's just in the first five minutes.

Wow. What just happened?! I'm fairly certain the Flaming Lips played before a near-capacity crowd of glassy-eyed revelers at Jannus Live on Wednesday — although there's a chance I slurped bad clams for lunch and it was all just an awesomely loopy hallucination.

Whatever the case: sweeeet.

The psychedelic toast of Oklahoma City, the Lips have been blissing people out since 1983, the band's reputation juiced and enlivened via sensory-overloaded live gigs that have to be seen to be believed — and even then you're not sure what you just witnessed.

Led by genial prankster Wayne Coyne — half P.T. Barnum, half Captain Kangaroo, all brave for encasing himself in that aforementioned bouncy ball — the band commenced the near-two-hour trip-out the way only the most brazen bands might end them, unloading the contents of a Party City on the heads of 1,800 who were expecting nothing less, nothing subtle.

The Lips have scored only one true hit — the Seussian jibberish of She Don't Use Jelly, which they performed with likable sing-along relish — and yet they remain signed to a major label, Warner Bros., mainly because for all the visual nuttiness, their proggy, gauzy music is always gorgeous, always inventive.

The opening one-two sock of The Fear and Worm Mountain showcased the group's musical strengths: shifting tempos and clashing sounds, warm fuzz and harsh slaps. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1 sounds like it could be tedious space rock, but it was downright beautiful, the soft empowering story of a girl muscling up to fight big bad machinery.

That said, the music played as mere soundtrack to the cocoon of crazy. After all, there aren't many shows that start with a careful warning about the theatrics: "We turn our strobe lights up to their maximum (bleepin') potential," Coyne cautioned. "If you feel like you are having a bad reaction, all you have to do is not look at the lights."

Of course, you were totally safe gawking at the bear that stormed the stage and hoisted Coyne on his shoulders for the soft-hard racket of Silver Trembling Hands from latest album Embryonic. And how could you not enjoy all those fans mimic the lyrics of the nonsensical I Can Be a Frog, which would be a much-requested smash in any daycare center?

As the crowd floated out of the venue, the remaining detritus looked like a carful of clowns had vomited merriment all over the joint. It was strangely beautiful. But maybe that's just the clams talking.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life column runs every Sunday in Floridian.

Flaming Lips is pure bliss 10/13/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 11:28pm]
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