Fuel Arena
Concord Music Hall
H.O.B.

The Flaming Lips live!

| December 16, 2009 | 0 Comments

Allstate Arena, Rosemont
Friday, December 11, 2009

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The Flaming Lips live for the moment, and the Fearless Freaks’ live shows treat each song as if it is the main event. They amplify the emotion as much as possible so that there is a more-than-usual lull between each song as if the band have to once again muster up the energy to make the next one the moment of the concert.

For a full gallery from Friday’s show, visit www.illinoisentertainerphoto.com.

That give-it-their-all work ethic was once again on display as the headliners for WXRT-FM’s Big Holiday Concert. When the 75-minute set came to a close, it was clear the band chose to stick to their proven arena hits rather than focus on introducing the good-sized crowd to their less accessible, more psychedelic offerings of the most recent album, Embryonic. Except for a handful of new songs, the set varied little from the Lips’ appearance at this past summer’s Pitchfork Festival, although the sound at the Allstate Arena was much better.

After the background video screen visually “gave birth” to each band member, frontman Wayne Coyne floated on top of the floor crowd in an inflatable ball in what has become a standard opening gimmick for the Oklahoma City rockers. A confetti and oversize-balloon explosion, combined with the opening notes of “Race For The Prize,” signaled the start of the concert that combined the energy of a rave with the wonder of New Year’s and Christmas eves.

A menagerie of dancing, costumed hangers-on filled each side of the stage, with their energy matched by the crowd for fan favorites “The Yeah, Yeah, Yeah Song” and the much older hit — and mandatory concert rendition — of “She Don’t Use Jelly.” The band once displayed their subtle side with the mellow, orchestrated “In The Morning Of The Magicians,” accompanied by a stunning backdrop of an orange- and red-flecked sunrise video montage.

The momentum came to a bit of a halt during “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots,” as Coyne invited a couch-full of VIPs to sit on the stage during a stripped and lengthened synth and vocal arrangement.

Only three Embryonic songs made the set. Opening track “Convinced Of The Hex” was played early with a hard edge, and the Apache-shrieking vocals on “Silver Trembling Hands” reverberated through the arena. A thumping and marauding bassline was the energy behind “See The Leaves.”

The encore — the uplifting track “Do You Realize?” and a cover of “White Christmas” — combined for a memorable ending. Coyne used a megaphone to croon the vocals to the holiday classic as he was accompanied by hand-shaken sleigh bells — with falling faux snow providing highlights to his mop of graying hair.

The much-anticipated appearance by Phoenix was cut far short, as the band cited “a family emergency” for their drummer’s absence. The French synth-pop band’s remaining quartet took the stage under four isolated spotlights and told the disappointed crowd they were going to play “the way we write songs” — acoustically. A drum machine provided beats to three songs (including “Lisztomania”) that minimally resembled the band’s high-energy album offerings.

Pete Yorn provided a spirited 45-minute set, leading a four-man backing band like an acoustic maestro in front of an appreciative crowd. His set largely rocked, taking on additional energy not necessarily found on his recordings. Chiming guitars and a tambourine highlighted “Blackie’s Dead,” and Yorn tugged on the heartstrings with the confessional “Cry For You” off recent album Back & Forth. A cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” was a highlight of the set.

Chicago jazz-rock veterans Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra warmed up the crowd with a high-energy 20-minute set.

— Jason Scales

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