Like jet fuel to kickstart the weekend in downtown San Francisco’s historic Warfield Theatre hall, Oklahoma Psychedelic sensation The Flaming Lips played a long-awaited show that seemed to echo through the generations. The much-anticipated show was finally able to commence, having been postponed from their original dates back in May after several members of the band had tested positive for Covid-19. The audience showed up with a passion reflecting this pent-up excitement, showing up early, excited, and dressed to the nines in various costumes. Before the show began, the lights dimmed and frontman Wayne Coyne’s voice intermittently blared through the loudspeaker as the voice of God announcing “ Five minutes… Three minutes… One minute until the show.” Finally, as the sound of a vacuum could be heard through the venue, an inflatable bubble appeared center stage. Coyne entered and the lights turned on as the band began their show with their 2009 hit “Sagittarius Silver Announcement.” After playing “Silver Trembling Hands” and “Do You Realize??” Coyne exited his bubble and immediately put on a Wonder Woman themed snuggie, claiming “I was kinda getting cold.”
Coyne took a moment to acknowledge the love lost over the pandemic, but his optimism that it may and has returned, stating “I say this every night… Covid is behind us. No more concerts being stopped… But now I feel like we have a new gratitude for the special, special thing that can only happen in concerts… Giving our joy to, giving out love to (Each other.)” Before encouraging the audience to pull their phones out, affectionately bark like dogs, and smile brighter than they ever thought possible during their next song “Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear” a request the audience obliged without hesitation.
The only breaks in the music seemed to come from waiting for the theatrics to catch up with Coyne’s creative vision for cultivating an immersive set. Coyne's bubble was far from the only three-dimensional artifact to punctuate the performance, the set sported a large arcing rainbow for many of the early songs, a giant inflatable robot during “Why Does It End?” and copious breaks for confetti and bubbles sprayed out into the house. Drawing a disclaimer from the band, Coyne warned “Whoever makes these fucking bubble machines… it may spray you in the face, so be careful.”
Coyne made sure to point out the connection the band felt with many of their songs and highlighted the story of how they came to be. Breaking for long monologues before several pieces, he gave the audience a backstory on the making of “Flowers of Neptune 6” claiming it was a collaboration between the band and Kacey Musgraves and their experiences with LSD and how it opened their minds and their hearts after her gallbladder surgery. He also gave a story of another piece having been inspired by a story the band followed closely in real time about a man who kidnapped a woman resulting in a tragic end. He admitted they did not play that piece live very often, but wrote it to allow some good, however minimal, to come from such a tragic event.
The rest of the setlist felt flushed with hits from the past several decades, playing almost everything their tenured fans could have possibly expected including “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1,” “Be Free, a Way,” “Always There, In Our Hearts,” “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell,” and of course, “She Don’t Use Jelly.”
Fully supportive of other artists on the rise in the musical community, Coyne took a backseat for one song to allow young emerging Canadian artist Nell Smith to take center stage for a few minutes. The teenager who has collaborated with the band in the past picked up the microphone to cover Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” drawing great praise from the audience.
Coyne and Company’s set faded to a blackout after a throwback to the early 90’s, playing Moth in the Incubator, and vanished in a hurry and returned for their encore. Ending their show with a couple of oldies, the band came back to end the night with “My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion,” “Love Yer Brain,” and “Race for the Prize.” In keeping with the band’s tradition of showing love and appreciation to every city to come out to support them, Coyne held up a large inflatable collection of balloons high and proudly above his head that read “Fuck Yeah San Francisco” as confetti rained from the sky. Sending the crowd off with a sense of mutual affection not seen in this city quite possibly since the summer of love.