UFOs at the Zoo

You’ve probably heard the stories. Stories of animal costumes, giant inflatable balls and nun puppets.

You’ve probably heard the stories. Stories of animal costumes, giant inflatable balls and nun puppets.

But if you haven’t been lucky enough to catch the Flaming Lips on one of their infrequent trips to Portland and couldn’t snag tickets to their show this month, you can still pick up their impressive new concert film UFOs at the Zoo.

The concert, advertised as “the legendary concert in Oklahoma City,” is the first official concert DVD release from the band known primarily for its amazing live performances. This performance at the Oklahoma City Zoo doesn’t disappoint. The band is in full form as they play through a set of songs from their most critically acclaimed and creatively fertile period–from 1999’s The Soft Bulletin to their most recent album At War With The Mystics.

The production on the DVD itself is surprisingly good. Too many concert films of smaller acts are seriously lacking in production quality. Most choose to film the concert with handheld camcorders and only from a few angles. The Lips go all out, with cranes swooping over the crowd, overhead shots of the stage and in the band members’ faces, all shot on high-quality film. (Or is it digital? Who can tell these days?)

The Flaming Lips manage to turn all the songs they play into joyful and epic experiences. The 10,000 plus crowd responds to every fist pump by singer Wayne Coyne and most every word he utters is met with a roar.

The Flaming Lips’ common live gimmicks are here, including the now-obligatory inflatable ball that Coyne uses to crawl on top of the audience like a giant hamster. They’ve done the same act hundreds of times, but you wouldn’t tell from this performance and the energy they put into it.

Other bands could learn from The Flaming Lips. They know that what most fans want to see is their favorite band having fun. Too many artists nowadays stumble on stage, frown and basically play their latest album front to back.

Judging from this show, it looks like The Lips are supporting the entire Oklahoma City party store business. Throughout the show balloons fly, streamers shoot out of cannons and a constant storm of confetti falls over the audience. The Lips have built an army of fans by throwing balloons and bits of paper at them–and it goes to show bands don’t need expensive pyrotechnics to captivate. Sometimes all it takes is to swing a light around your head on the end of a rope.

The only misstep of the concert DVD is the decision to intercut the concert with boring and unnecessary pre-show interviews with the (mostly) drunk and stoned crowd. (Sample quotes from the interviews: “I got me some cheap whiskey and I’m fitting to see The Flaming Lips man.” Or, “The pot’s cool, but don’t get caught with it … be safe … The Flaming Lips rock!”)

Why interrupt the mind-blowing set for minutes at a time to talk to burnouts?

A few clips transcend the rest–Wayne Coyne playing with a seal at the zoo or setting up the makeshift UFO the band enters and exits the stage on–but even those clips could have been extras and not crammed in the middle of the concert.

Complaints aside, it’s hard to dislike the DVD. Once the band kicks into their now-signature tune “Do You Realize??” even the coldest heart will be won over as the crowd hugs each other while the lyrics, “Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?” drift over their heads.

That’s what The Flaming Lips do to people. And seeing the smiles of the crowd and the band, and the childlike feeling of glee you get when watching confetti and balloons fall from the sky, is what it’s all about. The concert says it’s ok to have fun, even in the complicated world we live in. UFOs at the Zoo is released in Music Video Interactive (MVI) format. MVI discs include extra content not commonly included on a regular DVD or CD.

The DVD includes not only the concert video, but also downloadable MP3s of the entire concert, a way to create your own ringtones of Flaming Lips songs, art and more.