So proclaimed Steven Ellison from behind a massive white screen flowering with stunning psychedelic visuals, his silhouetted shape distinguished by two eyeballs of glowing yellow light.
With the press of a button, the Flying Lotus live spectacle commenced, centered upon an intense and fully immersive audio-visual apparatus. Enthralled, the audience swayed slowly to the throbbing trip-hop rhythms, the sensory trance interrupted intermittently by overwhelmed bodies falling to the floor.
Slow, sinister, and dynamic, the mostly instrumental first half of the show, though fascinating, bore little resemblance to the eclectic and idiosyncratic music that FlyLo is best known for. This was somewhat disappointing, though not particularly surprising.
Celebrated for its complex combination of electronic and live instrumentation, the music of Flying Lotus blends, traverses, and obliterates the boundaries between electronica, hip-hop, jazz, prog-rock, and metal. On You’re Dead, the critically acclaimed new release on Warp Records, Ellison is joined by Herbie Hancock, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and a multitude of other studio musicians and collaborators. The result is a baroque and multifarious 38 minutes of electro-fusion, punctuated by saxophone solos, breakneck rap verses, bass shredding, and thunderous drum machine sequences. Translating these sounds to a live setting presents obvious challenges.
Fortunately, just as the A/V-man-with-a-laptop routine had grown stale, Ellison picked up the microphone, and emerged from the behind the screen as Captain Murphy, FlyLo’s rapping alter ego. Dropping Drake jokes and bouncing over the crowd, the 15-minute hip-hop interlude provided a much-needed lift to the blunted and hypnotized crowd.
With the audience’s energy restored, Ellison invited his frequent collaborator Thundercat – the bass virtuoso whose progressive jazz-fusion had floated over most heads an hour earlier as the opening act – to take the stage. Donning a lion’s hide and a carrying a massive six-string bass, Thundercat, whose bass playing makes Victor Wooten sound like Adam Clayton, proved to be the perfect foil to Ellison, providing the essential live element to the show’s raucous final act, which featured a number of crowd-pleasing tracks from You’re Dead.
In a final flourish, Ellison briefly dropped the late DJ Rashad’s ‘Pass That Shit’, before unleashing the explosive and long-awaited coda to ‘Never Catch Me’. It was a glorious moment of catharsis after an arduous and exhausting journey.