Oklahoma's mad-scientist rockers were a spectacle from the very start at Roy Wilkins.
The confetti cannons went off a dozen times. The dancers marched out in DayGlo-orange "DJ Lance" costumes. The Skittles-like array of giant balloons bounced to and fro. The singer climbed inside his giant, clear roller-bubble and levitated over the crowd.
And that was all just in the opening song.
Oklahoma's kings of psychedelia, the Flaming Lips, wasted no time getting down to business Sunday night at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. For the past decade, the acidic rockers have made freak-showiness their brand, trademarking a kaleidoscopic live show that's as outlandish as their music.
On Sunday, the showmanship saved the show. Without all the visual trickery, the Lips might have fizzled.
Not that the music sounded bad. A lot of it was just more trippy and less melodic than the band's best-known material -- more in line with the scrappy, screechy, experimental fare the Lips played before their live show took shape, when they drew a tenth of the 2,300 fans on hand Sunday. (The band's local audience peaked at about 8,000 for its 2006 State Fair grandstand show.)
The graying Okies did not play a single song off their most refined, accessible album, 1999's "The Soft Bulletin." Instead, they offered a couple of extra-wild, obscure nuggets and a half dozen more outlandish -- and sometimes even unsettling -- tunes from their madcap 2009 disc, "Embryonic."
"I try to warn everyone what's about to come," wizardly singer Wayne Coyne told fans before his group took the stage. He was mainly afraid of spilled beers and seizures (in that order).
Coyne and his bandmates then came out in unforgettable fashion, walking through a giant video-screen silhouette of a woman's private area. By song No. 2, "Silver Trembling Hands," Coyne had climbed atop the shoulders of a man in a bear costume. The third song, "She Don't Use Jelly," didn't require much embellishment besides the audience's vocal participation. But just for good measure, the band threw in a giant inflatable star-man and a ... I think it was a walrus.
Undeniably fun, the concert also had some seriously electrifying musical moments. The new tune "Worm Mountain" made for a deliciously wicked opener, and "Pompeii am Gotterdammerung" recalled Pink Floyd's haziest, best jams. The classics "Do You Realize??" and "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" paired up to create a rousing, celebratory finale. And the semi-acoustic version of "Yoshimi Battles the Robots" mid-concert was just plain beautiful.
There were some putrid moments, too: "I Can Be a Frog" sounded like a kids-music CD reject, and "Sagittarius Silver Announcement" fell as flat as the confetti and balloons eventually did. The problem with the latter song might have just been the fact that it was delivered in the dark with nary a stage gimmick -- sacrilege, man!
See the Lips' full set list at startribune.com/artcetera.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658