The Flaming Lips The Soft Bulletin Recorded Live at Red Rocks with The Colorado Symphony Orchestra (Warner Records) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Flaming Lips

The Soft Bulletin Recorded Live at Red Rocks with The Colorado Symphony Orchestra

Warner Records

Dec 11, 2019 The Flaming Lips Bookmark and Share

Picture yourself in the mid-to-late ‘80s tooling around with your best buddies in a white van with little more than the handful of musical instruments you begged and borrowed for. Maybe to up your psychedelic credibility you have a bubble machine and a light-up rainbow spinner ball to splash a little color across the walls of the ramshackle clubs where you’ve managed to land gigs. As all fledgling bands do, you have plans to make it big but even the most expansionist dreams wouldn’t have encompassed playing your ninth studio album live in the most iconic amphitheater in the country backed by a symphony orchestra and choir. Sometimes dreams you can’t even conceive of find their way to your doorstep.

In the halcyon days of legal weed (in this case May 2016), The Flaming Lips found themselves fronting the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Red Rocks to perform The Soft Bulletin in its entirety. Of course these things don’t just happen, it was the culmination of 30 years of hard work and dedication to their craft that got them there. That along with an album that was tailor made for symphonic and choral backing.

Not surprisingly, the live rendition of the album takes flight when conductor André de Ridder’s 68-piece orchestra and 57-person chorus are fully engaged. The extended and thoughtful intro to “Race For the Prize” hardly prepares the listener for when the band and their 125-person assist fully kicks in. And as nimble as a large-scale orchestra can be, the choir turns out to be the ace in the hole on many of the tracks. When first heard on the opener the massed voices are akin to a blast of rainbow colors that are equally met by the roar of a crowd caught off guard by the enormity of it all.

Other moments where all the ingredients are brought to bear include the skittery swing of “The Spark That Bled” where the band’s strongest melodies go toe-to-toe with de Ridder’s arsenal. After settling into a groove mid-performance, the later appearing “The Gash” must have been a hair-raising moment for those in attendance. The interplay between choir, band, and orchestra is perfectly matched for maximum effect. While on a more subtle note, “Waitin’ For a Superman” is primarily Wayne Coyne and piano on a sparse emotional take.

The live version of The Soft Bulletin may not supplant the pristine studio take, as no doubt it is hard to capture the effect of 100+ musicians and vocalists in a large open air amphitheater. But in those moments where the mass of instrumentation and voice pierce the veil between performer and audience you get a sense of the wonder that must have been present in the moment. What a long strange trip it’s been for the Lips and their ever loving fans. Even though the band is still going strong, it’s hard to imagine a more idyllic outcome to what Coyne, Michael Ivins, Steven Drozd, and those that have joined along on their journey could have ever dreamed. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Ritu Singh
December 12th 2019

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Ritu Singh
December 12th 2019

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