by David Downs
Veteran psych-rockers the Flaming Lips rolled up and smoked openers Gnarls Barkley with a headlining set on New Year's Eve eve featuring a descending UFO, "Bohemian Rhapsody," fifteen thousand balloons, and several hundred pounds of confetti.
"How many of you are here for the Flaming Lips?" asked Gnarls Barkley singer Cee-Lo near the end of its tepid, hour-long opening set Saturday night. Most of the crowd cheered. "I knew it wasn't us," he said.
Bad sound, an early performance, and a half-loyal crowd dogged Gnarls Saturday night, plus the band had been touring for more than six months. Cee-Lo attested the schedule has taken its toll. "We've made sacrifices," he said. Still, a NASA costume motif, covers of the 2001 theme music, as well as a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" entertained the majority of the crowd, which especially looked forward to Cee-Lo's near-a-cappella rendition of "Transformer" [see video at bottom], one of the hyphiest cuts on St. Elsewhere.
None of that mattered an hour later, of course, when the Lips descended onto the stage from a glowing, silver UFO, and Wayne Coyne emerged from the top of the vessel in a huge inflatable hamster ball. Coyne rolled himself down the UFO's exterior and onto the crowd for a rollicking opening. Followed by a set list chock full of New Year's Eve eve bangers including "Vaseline," "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," "Bohemian Rhapsody," and Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World," with Cee-Lo accompanying. The Lips closed the set with a balloon drop and much love all around.
Promoters take note. Great sound always rules. But ample bathrooms, copious booze, room to roam, and balloons and confetti can render even Bill Graham Civic Auditorium's bat-cave acoustics mute in the ears of a drunken, happy attendee.
Watch Video of Gnarls Barkley's "Transformer" remix:
Watch Video of the Flaming Lips' Balloon attack: