A review of The Flaming Lips at The Puyallup Fair on Sept. 21.

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Concert Review |

It’s always a delightful, magically strange experience to see The Flaming Lips perform live. Dancers in animal costumes, confetti explosions, giant papier-mâché hands that shoot lasers? The norm. But seeing the psychedelic five-piece play the Puyallup Fair? Surreal.

A far cry from your usual country/rock/pop fair fare, Wednesday’s show was a fun, freaktastic romp through the band’s biggest hits from its 30-year career, despite (or perhaps thanks to) some challenges of the venue.

Good-natured, pied-piper-of-a-frontman Wayne Coyne unceremoniously walked to the edge of the stage to hug fans while the gear was still being loaded in and the house lights were up. Then he came back again to explain that the venue staff had given permission for him to get inside his “space bubble” and walk out into the crowd. But everyone would have to return to their seats after. (They did eventually, after a few requests.)

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Once the actual show started, the fact that the execution of the space bubble — a large plastic sphere blown up around Coyne so he can be buoyed by the audience — was less grandiose than it was charmingly quirky didn’t matter. It made the start of the night’s journey all the more intimate, and Coyne the more endearing.

And besides, there was plenty of grandiose to come: giant bouncy balls, streamer explosions, videos of topless girls, dancers in gingham dresses flanking the stage. The songs crescendoed again and again; most could have been a killer finale in any other concert.

“Is David Bowie Dying?” with guitarist Steven Drozd playing a symphony of sounds on his smartphone, was a slow, heavy-building, mind-tripping odyssey. “What is the Light?” devolved into Coyne kneeling before a ball of light, waving a microphone sputtering sounds that can only be described as “lost in space with a dental drill.”

The band’s faithful take on Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” was an epic, explosive pre-encore closer.

The show’s final farewell was the 2002 hit “Do You Realize??” A camera mounted on Coyne’s microphone broadcast his every expression like a deep space confessional. The song was heartbreaking, personal, and utterly magical. Confetti rained; the Ferris wheel blinked in the distance.

Joanna Horowitz: jbhorowitz@gmail.com

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