Wednesday, August 29, 2007

DVD Review - The Flaming Lips - UFO's at the Zoo: The Legendary Concert in Oklahoma City (***1/2)

I'm not usually one to get too excited about concert films. To me, unless I am actually at a live show in person, then I'd rather just listen to an artist's recorded work. The only live music DVDs I actually own are The Last Waltz, The Complete Monterey Pop Festival, that Led Zeppelin DVD and The Electrifying Conclusion, the latter of which was given to me. It's not that I don't enjoy watching my favorite bands on the small screen, it's more because of the fact that I don't ever really feel the need to watch them more than once. Well there goes that rule, because you can now add UFO's at the Zoo to the list of concert films that demand a second or third viewing, if not more. Recorded at the Lips' 2006 show at the Oklahoma City Zoo, UFO's at the Zoo documents a sort of homecoming for the group as well as the unveiling of their biggest prop to date, a massive metal UFO from which the band members emerge as it lowers from the top of the stage.

It should come as no surprise to anyone but neophytes that the Lips have never once considered moderation in anything they do, from the music to the drugs to (especially) the spectacle of live performance. Their shows could literally make KISS blush - there is more confetti, smoke, fake blood, streamers, dancing aliens, giant Santa Clause's and eye popping lights than the human mind can possibly handle in one sitting. This would all be overkill if the music didn't fit the occasion though. The Lips are the preeminent psych-rock of my lifetime, amassing a body of work over the past 20+ years that can match nearly any other band. The set list for UFO's draws almost exclusively from their last three records, two of which are stone cold classics, so you know most of the music rules. Unfortunately this show was recorded not long after the release of At War With the Mystics though, the Lips' first record in over 10 years not to really make my jaw drop. But I'll give them credit: they at least choose the best songs ("My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion", "The W.A.N.D.") from Mystics to include here. And although I still can't really stomach "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" or "Free Radicals" in recorded format, they are both helped immensely in the live setting, where the audience is free to go nuts and the Lips can cut loose with crowd participation and the occasional confetti bomb. The energy is palpable.

Or course the Lips know what side their bread is buttered on, and they appease with a number of selections from both the The Soft Bulletin ("Race for the Prize", "The Spark that Bled", "A Spoonful Weighs a Ton") and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (the title track parts 1&2, "Do You Realize?"), in addition to ending the set with a couple of classic early songs ("Love Yer Brain" and the incomparable "She Don't Use Jelly"). Instead of a straight live set though, director Brad Beesley (who directed the very good Lips documentary The Fearless Freaks, which I'd recommend even over this) decided to intersperse clips from the events leading up to show, including footage of Wayne Coyne meeting & greeting with fans, a backstage look at the construction of the Mothership and crew members recruiting fans to dance around on stage in the aforementioned alien and Santa costumes. These intermissions are never overlong, so they don't really kill any momentum. Instead they offer a glimpse of the energy and passion that goes into a Lips show. What it boils down to is the music though, which is pretty stellar throughout. If UFO's at the Zoo can teach us anything, it is exemplified best by Coyne and his speech prior to "Do You Realize?", where he speaks of the overwhelming communal spirit of pop music in it's rawest form. And on that basis, The Flaming Lips and UFO's at the Zoo succeed marvelously.

Note: UFO's at the Zoo is available in MVI format, which plays on any Region 1 DVD player. The disc's bonus features are unlocked if you insert the disc in your computer however. It includes a digital booklet, downloadable wallpapers, a buddy icon, a ringtone maker and the complete performance in MP3 format so you can load it onto your iPod or burn it to a CD.

Here are a couple video clips from UFO's at the Zoo

"Race for the Prize"

"Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1"

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