Flaming Lips with the Colorado Symphony

Article Contributed by Philip Emma | Published on Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The potentially rainy day at the nation’s most beautiful outdoor venue made the perfect backdrop to what was about to transpire. The Flaming Lips, with their elaborate stage set up for over one hundred performers, were going to play their entire album entitled The Soft Bulletin with the Colorado Symphony led by conductor Andre de Ritter.

The Colorado Symphony transitioned into itself from the Denver Symphony Orchestra in 1989, and plays at the ornate Boettcher Hall in the Denver Performing Arts Center. They perform a wide range of events throughout the Front Range like masterworks, pops, family, Inside the Score, and the Symphony on the Rocks series, which included this show and also others like the Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration with Warren Haynes at Red Rocks on August 1st.

This gracefully powerful orchestra opened the show with some Stravinsky and a few other classical pieces. The last piece was Symphony #9 by Antonin Dvorak, and the introduction especially sounded quite familiar to the ominously dark music in the movie Jaws. It was a beautiful opening set, and I highly recommend getting to one of their events and supporting them any way possible.

The Flaming Lips came out and lead singer Wayne Coyne got hoisted up onto his LED-lit pedestal with lights flowing down his long robe, which flowed through to the front of the stage. Behind them was a full choir and the full Colorado Symphony. The opening songs “Race for the Prize” and “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” were commanding and effusive. “The Spark That Bled” and “The Spiderbite Song” were intricate and layered delicately with all different sounds and echoes.

There was a lot of audience participation during “Buggin’.” Coyne had the crowd make insect noises as loud as we could in many of the segments toward the end of the song. It was a lot of fun to hear the different ways that insects were being depicted by the audience. The heavenly “What is Light?” and “The Observer” came next, and through much of the set I felt like I was experiencing what it sounded like to ascend into heaven.

My favorite part of this album has to be “Waitin’ for Superman” and “Suddenly Everything Has Changed,” and to my delight, this was the efficacious climax to the set. The choir was alive and boisterous for “The Gash,” and Coyne’s drumbeat vocal intro to “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” sent the crowd screaming. The final song of The Soft Parade is “Sleeping on the Roof,” which starts with the sound of crickets chirping and paints the perfect auditory picture of what it sounds like to lay on one’s roof. It is a gentle come down from an exploratory masterpiece. This was a special live music moment that a person is lucky to see in their lifetime. I have seen the Flaming Lips at least a dozen times, but none of them have been as magical and mystical as this one.

For their first encore, they played my absolute two favorite songs of theirs: “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1” and “Do You Realize??” This was otherworldly. It was as if all 100 plus musicians decided to step it up a notch to magnetize into hypnosis.  Powerful is an understatement; gripping is just not enough. The best part was that they were not even done. The Flaming Lips came on for another encore, but this time without the Colorado Symphony. The first song was started with the inflation of the band’s gigantic bubble in the middle of the crowd for a groundbreaking performance of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” The crowd melted through the entire performance, and after, the band ripped into “The W.A.N.D.”  from the album At War with the Mystics.

It is such an honor to be able to hear the Colorado Symphony play with such a magical band. I hope these types of collaborations happen more often. The entire night was an exceptionally extraordinary experience in music history.