When the Flaming Lips last played Santa Barbara it was in 2002, and they brought their now famous party to the Arlington — dancing bears, balloons, confetti cannons, and more. Their album at the time was “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” which has gone on to be considered one of their best. Though melancholic underneath, the music bopped along, and so did the band.
When lead singer Wayne Coyne and his cohorts returned to Santa Barbara this last Friday, they did so as headliners on the final show of the Bowl season, and with a locally-created Dia de los Muertos theme to celebrate. But they were also bringing an album considered by critics to be the bleakest of their career: “The Terror.” The resulting concert was disconcerting. How to balance their reputation as one of the best live shows around while pushing ahead with their experimental music? The results were mixed.