Damaged Art Freak-O-Rama!

Photo by James Bunoan BECK/THE FLAMING LIPS
TERRACE THEATRE, LONG BEACH
FRIDAY, DEC. 6

"There can't be this many people here to see Beck and the Flaming Lips!" we gasped when confronted with the horde of automobiles quickly filling up the lots outside the Terrace Theatre. Well, there weren't: just one of those strange scheduling anomalies when a behemoth sports/entertainment complex decides to pack in a bunch of stuff on the same night. So not only were Beck and the Lips around but also a hockey game (Long Beach Ice Dogs vs. . . . Idaho?) and a motorcycle show. It took us forever to find the right entrance.

Which wouldn't have been a problem if we'd been to the Terrace Theatre before—we hadn't, as the room rarely hosts rock shows, and instead seems to stick mostly to yawner musicals that were Broadway hits several generations ago. Once inside, we could see why—the joint needs a serious makeover, with its wood-grain walls that make it look like Mike Brady's den or an Orange Coast College lecture hall. How un-punk, even if Elvis Costello did play here a couple of months ago.

More intriguing was the rash of hyperhairy fans this double bill brought out: ones who not only looked like they'd be comfier at a Dead show, but who also reeked that same, toxic Deadhead cocktail scent of patchouli and farts. Yet the crowd they mixed with—the Silver Lake faux bohemians who came down to sip their wine and spring for $35 Beck T-shirts (same as the ticket price, mind you)—didn't seem to care.

Hell, everyone was probably too high to notice, anyway, what with Wayne Coyne and the Lips (not to mention a gaggle of folks onstage dressed in furry animal costumes—trust us here) kicking out big-ass red and green balloons for the crowd to toss around. This was apparently a huge thing for some in the second tier, as they were so hell-bent on balloon-bopping that they came perilously close to tumbling over the railing. Mix in the rest of the party the Lips were throwing—with singing nun puppets; confetti spewing; and sexy, gory video clips of Asian schoolgirls blowing one another's heads off and Cool Hand Luke and pulsating body organs—and it made for some of the most entertaining 45 minutes we've ever had the pleasure of imbibing.

Since the Lips couldn't even sell out the Glass House on their last go-round, we figured most were here to see Beck, which is okay and all, but the man who has had the misfortune to be cursed in print with "sweet, Bambi-like innocence" by Robert Hilburn (to which we say, "Hey, man, Bambi wasn't so fucking innocent!") has been on a serious downer since splitting with his girlfriend. It's those kind of everything-in-life-is-shit songs that dominate his newest album, Sea Change, filled with I'm-gonna-kill-myself-so-why-don't-you? lines like "Yellow roses in the graveyard/Got no time to watch them grow" and "Seen the love you had turning into hate" and "Altogether in a snake pit of souls" and "All the jewels in heaven/They don't look the same to me." Yeah, we know heartbreak, too, and we feel sorry for the guy, but we also think Beck has a secret mean-heartless-bastard streak in him, which we picked up on when he was covering the Lips tune "Do You Realize??" Was Beck smirking evilly as he crooned the lyric "Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die," as if he were philosophizing a theorem along the lines of "Just wait, bitch, you'll get yours"? Could've sworn it! Who'da thunk that Beck would ever get so weird?

After Beck's morose-folker solo stint, the Lips re-appeared to supply backing on the lad's older, peppier, fuzzier tunes such as "Lord Only Knows," "New Pollution," "Devil's Haircut," "Where It's At," "Get Real Paid" (where he did the Robot Dance like an adroitly-trained monkey) and "Loser," which eight years on actually sounds more like an old Flaming Lips song. The teaming was fun and wise and good, though none of the arrangements were helped by the ugly splotches passing for art that oozed across the rear video screen, looking instead like a live camera shot from inside someone's colon. But the surprises were sweet, such as the cameo from Zero 7's Sia Furler, who sang with Beck on "You're the One That I Want" (yeah, that song), turning a bubbly show tune into a beautifully creepy stalker anthem. As three-hour love-feasts for damaged art freaks go, that was pretty much the capper of the evening. (Rich Kane)

 
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