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Flying Lotus, Live in Concert

Thinking It Through

Flying Lotus, Live in Concert

The promotional blurb for Flying Lotus' Saturday night concert at MASS MoCA promised "a dance party to end this summer - and maybe all summers!" 

Which is a lot of hype. 

Could Flying Lotus - the rapper/beat maker who mixes dance music and hip-hop with jazz and funk - possibly live up to it? 

The answer is: sort of. 

Flying Lotus definitely got people dancing during his hour-plus set. 

But he also immersed people in a one-of-a-kind concert movie experience that aimed to highlight the ideas and themes featured on his excellent new album "Flamagra." 

At times, the music seemed to take a backseat to the visuals Flying Lotus had put together - a mix of animation, screen-saver-like imagery and live action, all in 3-D. (3-D glasses were distributed prior to the show.) 

The concert got off to a weird and rousing start with a clip of director David Lunch, who cameos on "Flamagra," reciting the song "Fire is Coming" to a group of children dressed in animal costumes. You could dance to this music - or you could simply stare and bob your head, lest you miss some wild and unforgettable imagery. 

There was a part of me that wished Flying Lotus - real name, Steven Ellison - had shown up with a full band and showcased his jazzier, more experimental side.

He performed alone, rapping and singing parts performed by his impressive roster of guest stars (Tierra Whack, Denzel Curry) on "Flamagra." It was entertaining, but didn't fully capture the sense of adventure and ambition contained in his best studio work. If you were hoping, as I was, that the great bassist Thundercat might join Flying Lotus on stage for a few songs, well, that didn't happen. Flying Lotus might be a great collaborator, but at MASS MoCA, he was the show. 

All in all, it made for a memorable night - an engaging, often heady, multi-media experience, presented by an artist of singular vision. 

If you came for a dance party, you certainly got one. 

But you got a lot more, too. 

Got a comment? Email me at [email protected]