Canadian “jizz jazzer” Mac DeMarco and experimental rock legends The Flaming Lips might want to consider many years of c0-headlining tours. As the two acts demonstrated Saturday at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, DeMarco’s mellowness is the perfect yin to the Lips’ over-the-top yang.
Ascending the stage to the main titles from “Star Wars” alongside his bandmates, DeMarco told the audience to make themselves comfortable and, dressed in his signature button-down short-sleeved shirt and baseball cap, broke into “On the Level.”
Despite being in a concert hall, the low-key aesthetics of DeMarco’s live show — a Ghost Rider banner hung from one of the keyboards — and overall easy-going vibe of his bandmates (for instance, the bassist stopped between songs to take a pic on a disposable camera) made it easy to imagine you were watching them play in someone’s backyard or living room. Retuning his guitar between each song, DeMarco spoke little between tracks other than to encourage the audience to sing along or give a quick bit of info about the next song.
Whenever DeMarco exhibited even the slightest bit of variation from his recorded songs, or showed just a bit of personality, as he did on “This Old Dog” and “Dreams From Yesterday,” the audience went wild, almost as though they expected an improv-light night. That’s not to say DeMarco’s performance was predictable; it’s just that there’s only so much you can do on stage when your songs are designed to be low-key.
DeMarco’s biggest departure from his generally slumberous style came during the last song, “Still Together,” off his 2012 sophomore album “2.” After lending the drawn-out vowels of the middle syllable of “together” a “Lion Sleeps Tonight”-esque falsetto, the guitarist switched to a ’70s rock sound and the band delivered a cover of Van Halen’s “Runnin’ With the Devil” that verged on parody. DeMarco sang in a variety of strange voices and, after executing a few “David Lee Roth jumps” from off an amp, transitioned back into one more chorus from “Still Together.” Sticking the landing of his last jump, DeMarco threw up a peace sign, said “bye bye,” and departed the stage.
Matching Mac DeMarco’s space theme, the Flaming Lips kicked off their performance with a rendition of the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” conducted by Lips founder Wayne Coyne. Dressed in a red suit with orange glow-in-the-dark nail polish, an eye patch, and his trademark puffy mane, Coyne looked a dead ringer for Dr. Lawrence Jacoby of “Twin Peaks.”
The curtains of wires that had been draped over DeMarco’s head during his set finally fulfilled their purpose: a massive light board extended nearly to the top of the venue and displayed assorted psychedelic visuals throughout the set, generally in variations of rainbow. A massive disco ball also rotated slowly above the stage as Coyne, Stephen Drozd, and Michael Ivins delivered to their audience what thirty years of wild live shows had promised.
Among the zany, off-the-wall props: confetti rained down on the crowd and huge colorful balloons bounced around the audience. At one point, Coyne rode through the audience on a unicorn covered in rainbow lights wearing rainbow blow-up angel wings. Later on, he took to his trademark clear plastic bubble for a roll among the worshipers. Prepared for a positive response, silver balloons spelling out “F— Yeah Los Angeles” hovered above like a raft.
The Lips delivered their most beloved songs, from “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All That Power)” — for which “yeah yeah yeah” flashed across the light board — to “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1.” Especially moving was their cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” which Coyne performed from inside his human hamster wheel from the back of the room.
The band capped off their set with “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton,” returning for the encore with a message of “LOVE” — spelled out in blinking lights from atop the speakers. For “Do You Realize?,” Coyne took a breath to note: “There’s no greater, better, cooler sound you can hear than people being happy.” The singer continued: “It’s a contagious thing. The real reason you should always show the world how good you f—ing feel is cause there are people experiencing some profound sadness. And if they’re standing next to you and wondering, ‘Is the world good, is the world full of pain,’ you’ve changed their life. You’ve made them stand up and scream. You never know who is standing next to you.”