The Flaming Lips Roots Stage, Downsview Park, Toronto ON, September 6

The Flaming Lips Roots Stage, Downsview Park, Toronto ON, September 6
Photo: Stephen McGill
If you don't know what to expect at a Flaming Lips show, here's an example: Their Riot Fest set began with a tinkling piano ballad as two giant mushrooms and a dancing rainbow swayed lovingly below a set of streamers. The song became "The Abandoned Hospital Ship," and when it exploded halfway through at the song's climax, twin cannons sent clouds of colourful confetti into the air as rainbow colours undulated on the giant screen behind them.

As the song ended, singer Wayne Coyne came out holding a giant set of helium balloons that spelled out, in shiny silver letters, "FUCK YEAH RIOT FEST" and then began "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1." Then, when the "hey! hey!" seconds in wasn't properly executed by the festival crowd, he interrupted it: "K wait. I know that [balloon] sign is very exciting, but that karate chop was an indicator of how fucking great this show is gonna be," he said as he urged the crowd to yell louder.

Coyne is contagiously enthusiastic, but he goaded the Riot Fest audience to the point that it was almost desperate. The crowd was tired after a long day, and Coyne was visibly disappointed that, despite the fair amount of energy shown, the crowd couldn't match his own. Still, he soldiered on, playing Chemical Brothers collaboration "The Golden Path" and The Soft Bulletin's "Race for the Prize" before walking out into the crowd in his signature plastic bubble and singing from the middle of the crowd for The Terror's "Look... The Sun Is Rising." The song was a highlight, as they dug heavy into the psych rock and lights flashed furiously behind them. The band closed with "Do You Realise??," still a tearjerker, and a drawn out, psychedelic cover of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" that featured a dirge-y chorus and three last confetti blasts.

Even on an off night, the Lips know how to entertain, and they deserve to be commended for it.

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Read our recent Questionnaire with Wayne Coyne here.