The Flaming Lips have certainly built an impressive resume in their 35 years together. Three Grammy wins, multiple critically acclaimed records, and a devoted fan base is certainly nothing to laugh at. With that being said, based on their performance at the Taste of Chicago this past Saturday, it is clear that they are in no shape to improve upon that resume.
A nostalgia driven setlist, performance antics, and Wayne Coyne’s heartfelt rants largely distracted from a truth that is hard to swallow. The band just doesn’t have much more to offer these days: at least from a musical perspective. While guitarist Steven Drozd still is able to deliver inspiring and punchy performances, the same cannot be said from the rest of the group. Wayne Coyne’s vocals have lost their youthful beauty; Matt Duckworth’s drums don’t feel as natural as Lips’ predecessor, Kliph Scurlock, and most notably, the band just doesn’t seem excited anymore. Playing a mostly greatest hits setlist, Wayne Coyne couldn’t stop talking to the crowd. While many of his words were eloquent and sincere, it was admittedly difficult to constantly hear breaks in the action. And even when they were playing, the band often needlessly extended songs without adding many musical touches to the piece.
Amongst all the disappointment, there was still some real highlights. “She Don’t Use Jelly” was as infectious as ever. The monster guitar riff felt massive when paired with the inviting environment of the crowd and the scenic nature of Chicago’s skyline. “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton” also was a very nice moment. The bendy guitar lick in the song perfectly coincides with massive snare hits, creating a very large moment. This coupled with the message in Coyne’s midsong jaunt made it abundantly clear that The Flaming Lips are still very much happy with what they are doing. “Getting you guys to use your voices creates something very powerful. If our songs can bring people together and help those who are in a sad place, I genuinely need nothing more.” Coyne said as the humid weather pulsed through the audience. This gesture shows that even though the group may no longer be on the cutting edge, they still see themselves as thriving as there and there is nothing wrong with that.