The Flaming Lips at Royal Oak Music Theatre in Royal Oak, MI

The Flaming Lips @ Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak | Photo by Jena McShane

The Flaming Lips put on a psychedelic masterpiece of a performance in Royal Oak filled with bubbles, confetti, lasers, and more.

A long-awaited return to the Detroit area was made even longer for The Flaming Lips after COVID-19 infection rates caused the cancellation of their November show last year. The added delay only made the sold-out crowd even more eager with anticipation as fans lined around the block on a Sunday night waiting to see one of the most eccentric bands and stage shows in the music industry today. 

Heartless Bastards got the evening rolling with their unique brand of indie rock. The group was founded by front-woman and songwriter Erika Wennerstrom in 2003 in Cincinnati, and she has since moved their headquarters to Austin, Texas. The two locations help provide context for the group’s hard-nosed lyrics and bluesy, roots-rock sound. 

Wennerstrom kicked things off with one of their most popular songs “Revolution,” which earned the band a 2021 Austin Music Award for “Song of the Year.” She then worked through a majority of the group’s 2021 album A Beautiful Life before closing off their 45-minute set with “Sway” from their 2008 album The Mountain. 

Wennerstrom capped off their portion of the night by telling the crowd how much of an honor it was to tour with The Flaming Lips and how much fun the group was having along the way. While that might sound like something every opening act says about the main performer, the truth of those words was made clear when several Heartless Bastards members were spotted enjoying the show near the soundboard later in the evening.

The Flaming Lips took the stage around 10:15 PM  to a roaring crowd. Lead singer Wayne Coyne started the show holding a small mechanical bird and explained how the group used to have a larger one that had since been misplaced. He jokingly warned that he was going to attempt to fly the new bird around the crowd and that everyone should watch their heads. After a brief crash landing 20 rows back, the fans relaunched the bird and it made its way back to Coyne. He then reminded everyone to “think birds” before starting into their first song of the evening, “My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion.”

The rest of the evening was a whirlwind of neo-psychedelic sounds and visuals as Coyne and Co. bounced through a mix of deep-cut classics and fan favorites. The crowd was treated to staples like “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1,” which included a 15 ft. inflatable robot on stage, as well as tracks like “Love Yer Brain” from their 1987 album Oh My Gawd!!! 

Flaming Lips fans know to expect a crazy stage show to match the symphonic psychedelia in their ears, and they were not disappointed. The entire backdrop of the stage was one giant LED screen that cast colorful visuals. On each side of the stage sat translucent balloons that were pinstriped with more LEDs. Coyne spent most of the evening popping in and out of his trademark bubble throughout the evening. Then at one point, another giant balloon was batted around by the crowd. 

The evening was capped off by a four-song set that began with “Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear.” The group wrapped things up with the beautiful and dreamlike “Race for the Prize” while cannons rained confetti over the crowd. 

By the end of the night, everyone’s heads were spinning. It’s likely that there were quite a few people who had to take the next day off of work to recover, but every Lips fan will tell you that it was all worth it. 

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About Jena McShane 25 Articles
Jena McShane is a Lansing, MI based photographer specializing in candid portraiture, live music, and stormy landscapes.