erasing clouds

Live Review: The Flaming Lips/The White Stripes, December 31, 2003, Aragon Ballroom, Chicago

by erin hucke

Confetti and balloons are nothing new for The Flaming Lips. Neither are people in animal costumes or topless women dancing on stage. But on New Year's Eve, they multiplied all of these things and put on what they touted in their video intro as a "mother fuckin'... once in a lifetime show." As the overture from Carmina Burana peaked, the Lips tore into "Race For The Prize" as loads of streamers and confetti shot out from cannons and a hundred giant red, white and blue balloons floated above the crowd. At times, the stage was barely visible through the party favor haze.

The band appropriately played "Thank You Jack White (For The Fiber-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)" with testament from Wayne that the gift Jesus really did exist and was on the fireplace mantle in his house. They also plowed through "Fight Test," the product of their recent collaboration with The Chemical Brothers, "The Golden Path" and the ever-present "She Don't Use Jelly." Despite an attempt at a crowd sing-along version of "Auld Lang Syne," the 50-minute set proved to be way too short for such a celebrated production.

The diluted energy of the Aragon Ballroom when the White Stripes finally took the stage made the Flaming Lips' set almost seem like a distant memory. Though every bit as solid and showy as you'd expect, The White Stripes had a tough time following the circus that is a Flaming Lips show.

Through the abundant hair flipping and rock star posturing, The Stripes rocked "Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground" and "The Hardest Button To Button." Meg White took a break from the drum kit and positioned herself center stage to sing "In the Cold, Cold Night." At one point, Jack weirdly sucked his right thumb as he effortlessly played his guitar with just his left hand. (Also, Meg often balanced herself with her left arm to strike her drums off beat with just one stick.)

As midnight approached, The Flaming Lips joined the Stripes on stage for a nice but unremarkable version of "We're Going To Be Friends." The subsequent minute-long countdown to 2004 erupted into "Seven Nation Army" with Wayne Coyne spouting his own version of the first verse through a megaphone. Jack White picked up the subsequent vocals as Wayne set off the megaphone's siren and fell to his knees in the drama.

After a quick champagne toast, the White Stripes wrapped up the night with many pre-White Blood Cells tunes and gave 2004 a very nice welcome.

Issue 19, January 2004

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