The Flaming Lips / Black Moth Super Rainbow Malkin Bowl, Vancouver BC September 18

A Flaming Lips show is like a kids party for adults: there’s confetti, oversized balloons and a good deal of substance abuse. On top of this, it’s a whole lot of fun. After all, seeing Wayne Coyne roll over a crowd in an inflatable hamster ball is pretty amazing. But like all great parties, this one starts with opening entertainment, which in Vancouver’s case was Black Moth Super Rainbow. While the group’s electro-psych sounds were decent enough, they lacked the necessary dynamic to hold much attention. Perhaps with more variety in the songs, BMSR could have blown some minds, but as it stood, that job was left for the Fearless Freaks, who after the hamster-ball stunt, were well on their way. With an explosion of yellow confetti, the Lips fired up their set with The Soft Bulletin’s "Race for the Prize,” but not without the help of flashlight-dancing Martians, Santas and brawny stagehands like Thor and Captain America. Adding to the visual onslaught was a collection of surreal sci-fi images, whose projections cast an eerie glow over Stanley Park’s forested venue. But as entertaining as the visuals were, it was the music that was the core of this psychedelic extravaganza. While the band covered much of their recent catalog (along with Zaireeka’s stunning "Riding to Work in the Year 2025”), surprisingly, the songs from their latest effort, the ill-received At War with the Mystics, often came across best. The "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” no longer seemed so gimmicky; "The W.A.N.D” proved the band could still bring some noise; and "Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung,” was a beautiful reminder that there’s a dark undercurrent to the band’s fun-loving aesthetic. By the time the night wrapped up with the Stones ballad, "Moonlight Mile,” the Flaming Lips live experience wasn’t that different from the one a few years ago. But when a band have theatrics as spectacular as these, perhaps it’s best to leave well enough alone.