I arrived at Yonge-Dundas Square for 8:30 p.m. to watch my most favourite live band on the planet – The Flaming Lips!
They are so cool; they were giving Toronto a free show for NXNE and you know what happened? We failed them. We failed them as a city, as lovers of music and supporters. We failed to thank them for the endless amusement they provided with limitless confetti, 200 balloons and a light show that was unreal. I was embarrassed, and I was pissed.
The day had already been struck with serious tragedy when the stage at Downsview Park collapsed during the set up for a scheduled Radiohead concert that same evening. Sadly, it took the life of Radiohead’s drum tech and needless to say the show was cancelled and hearts were heavy.
And now, 40, 000 people who planned to attend Radiohead’s show, turned down at the gates, headed for the free show at Yonge-Dundas Square. The show would have been much smaller had things worked out differently. It was grossly packed full of everyone but Flaming Lips fans (I literally met only ONE person in the crowd who was singing along with me).
The advertising in the Square during this show was offensive, honestly . . . I felt like I was duped. I can barely tell you what went on onstage but I can tell you all about that horrible Monster drink, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Sony . . . the list never ends. And why would anyone put these huge ridiculous product and sponsorship tents in front of the stage? Even worse, there were five huge TV screens and all were repeating the same ads except a small one in a corner that let us have a small glimpse of the Lips’ performance.
Nothing made sense. So I closed my eyes and took in the music.
You could feel the sadness in the air, it was evident on singer Wayne Coyne’s face as well. Wayne, who is almost always smiling and beautifully hyper on stage; he tried to hide it, tried to get the crowd going – man, did he try – but everyone was just standing around, packed in like infesting zombie-like creatures, just staring at him with absolutely no emotion. At one point Wayne said to the audience “Please Toronto, if you get this going, I promise I’ll come back and play this every year!” That’s music to my ears, but Toronto let him down.
The songs they chose to play that evening were darker than usual (expected, as the accident earlier affected everyone in the music business). They opened with some Sabbath – it was killer – and, of course, Wayne entered the stage through a gigantic vagina, as usual. I’m sure that shocked a few! He even pleased us with crowd surfing in his massive plastic bubble ball.
They played a cover of Radiohead’s ‘Knives Out’. It was mournful but prepossessing, all at the same time. ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ was played to get the crowd going, and I think some people started to realize what band they were in the presence of when that famous song was played. The middle of the show was consistently the dark, melodic, psychedelic Flaming Lips songs – ‘The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song’ was a trip and a half. I would have done anything for some more up beat songs like ‘Turn it on’ and ‘Fight Test’. They ended the show with a tearjerking ‘Do You Realize’, which was staggeringly graceful.
I think we owe it to the band to show them more love the next time they tour Canada. I felt bad; they work so hard so that we are entertained to the max, and to scream and clap is only appropriate. It was bad energy and Wayne is a man of positive energy. He himself once said, “I want you to come out to our shows, take ‘shrooms and make love to your girlfriend . . . enjoy life and music man.”