The Flaming Lips have been touring in support of “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots” (Warner Bros.) for almost a year now (this is their fourth appearance in Los Angeles over that time, including their gig as Beck’s back-up band) but you’d never know it by looking at them. The Oklahoma city band’s appearance at the Palladium on Saturday night was, if anything, even stronger than their previous shows — bigger, tighter, better paced, yet still fresh and vibrant.
With more costumed dancers than before (including a Santa Claus and an air guitar playing Jesus), more and bigger balloons, copious amounts of confetti and glitter tossed into the air (although considerably less blood than in the past) and lead singer Wayne Coyne leading the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday,” the Lips show comes off like a psychedelic New Year’s Eve party, with the vanilla-suited Coyne as the beatific master of ceremonies. But unlike the Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, the Lips rock. Steven Drozd has settled back into the drum chair, and his strong playing means the band relies less on tapes and samples. Even “She Don’t Use Jelly” — the Lips’ 1994 hit single and a song you’d imagine they’d be sick of playing by now — sounds focused and energized. The videos that play behind the band have also been tweaked, the juxtapositions of sound and image made more pointed.
In the wrong hands, such addled whimsy could become cloying, but Coyne keeps things grounded. His speech thanking the audience was filled with genuine emotion, and he ends the set with “A Spoonful Weight a Ton,” his whiny yet winning last word being “love.”
At the start of the show, the band boasts that a Flaming Lips show will change your life. A slight overstatement, perhaps, but there can be no argument that their show can change your mood — for the better.
Liz Phair preceded the Lips with a short, low-key set. Her new, self-titled Capitol album was partly produced by the Matrix, best known for work with Avril Lavigne. It’s an unappetizing combination, reminiscent of the later episodes of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” where actors playing high schoolers looked more likely to apply to AARP than UCLA. Backed by a bassist and keyboard player, Phair made little impression, other than her Britney-styled makeover. The Starlight Mints were more appealing in their opening set; pithy, left-field tunes such as “Brass Digger,” with their touches of trumpet, cello and acoustic guitar, came off as a less snarky version of Cake.