1. The Flaming Lips are the most obnoxious band ever. Though best known for their 1993 hit “She Don’t Use Jelly,” the Flaming Lips have been perfecting their brand of quirk for almost 20 years, growing a breed of fanatical followers almost as annoying as the band itself (see Lesson #2). So one would think the Lips had perfected their music as well, but alas, 15 giant balloons, endless plumes of dry ice, and a gaggle of dancing groupies dressed as various wildlife creatures wielding enormous flashlights don’t distract from what’s really important.
2. Lips Fans + Beer = Passive Aggression. If the Flaming Lips are obnoxious, their fans are even more so. Aside from a complete and total lack of self-awareness rivaled only by Dave Matthews Band concertgoers, Lips fans on this particular evening were inclined to throw cups of beer in your face if you interrupted their enjoyment of the otherwise joyous festivities. To their credit, Beck’s fans weren’t exactly benevolent.
3. The Lips are not better than Beck. Finally, Beck arrived on stage with guitar and harmonica in tow. He could have been Tom Petty or even Bob Dylan. An acoustic mini-set included gems from 1998’s Mutations and his latest effort, the critically-lauded Sea Change. The standout “Guess I’m Doing Fine” had even more impact than its recorded version. Beck’s delivery was plaintive and worn: “It’s only you that I’m losing/Guess I’m doing fine.” The Lips returned to provide backup for Beck’s uptempo second set, summoning screeches from the audience. One fan tastefully informed Beck that the Lips are better than he is. Beck, in turn, agreed and went on strumming his guitar. It’s here that the Beck and Lips fusion fit like hand-in-glove. Whether it was the new “Little One” or “Paper Tiger” (which featured a striking juxtaposition of soaring synth-strings, slowly-shifting psychedelic images projected on a giant screen, and a nearly emotionless vocal performance from Beck), or hyper-revised renditions of “Get Real Paid” and “Nicotine & Gravy,” Beck’s unbridled on-stage dynamism was evident. He can inspire screams with a simple touch to his vintage lapel.
4. Wayne Coyne was neglected as a child. Beck’s “Loser” and “Where It’s At” were given new life thanks, in part, to Lips frontman Wayne Coyne’s energy, but his constant need for attention led to an upstaging of intolerable proportions. Whether Beck knew it or not, Coyne repeatedly instigated the audience by swinging both fists in the air behind the headliner’s back. He proceeded to do this until the very end of the show, throughout and in between two encores. Sheesh.
5. There’s only room for one class clown.