Concert Review: Flying Lotus @ MTELUS, Nov. 9, 2017

When Flying Lotus took the stage at MTELUS Thursday night, he brought the crowd into his own world. The LA-native producer, rapper and filmmaker has given birth to a wave of copycats, but his undeniable sound has never been replicated. Those unfamiliar with his music have trouble categorizing Lotus’s sound, and fans find it impossible. He is often labeled as experimental electronic, fusion jazz, psychedelic, and a wave of other genres, but there is no one label that truly pegs him down.

The show on Thursday was a testament to just that, with Flylo swinging between the sweeping, ethereal chants on “Your Potential//The Beyond” to his crowd-favorite Flylo-brand house track “Do The Astral Plane. Throughout the set, he remained mostly behind a reflective, moonrock-looking podium of a DJ booth. He came out to rap for tracks like the aggressive, ignorant “Shake Weight” off of his pseudo-rap Captain Murphy outfit. His live vocal presence was powerful and air-tight. Not many DJs that can rap their asses off live. The crowd went nuts; this was a huge highlight.

The main feature on the ticket was the 3-D screen. This was a first for Flying Lotus on a tour, which garnered him a lot of attention leading up to it, since he hasn’t dropped an album since You’re Dead in 2015. The visuals for each show on the tour are improvised by a video team in a way that is unique every night. The 3-D was dazzling, and at its best brought the music into a higher place.

However, at times the abstract, 3-D rendered visuals came off as generic, amounting to something like a visualizer that moved to the beat. There were moments in Flylo’s set, between heavy hitters like “Dead Man’s Tetris” and “Never Catch Me” when it went into sort of a lull; Flylo would play deep cuts that were more downbeat and introspective, to which he sometimes lost the crowd. It felt like he wanted to put a focus more on the visuals, which were only captivating when they weren’t repetitive.

The first time I saw Flylo was in 2013 in Vancouver, and the following year at the Pemberton Music Festival in BC, when he used to have another form of 3-D that didn’t involve glasses but a transparent screen in front of him and one behind him, creating composite images that achieved a similar effect. Visuals have always been a major ingredient in Flying Lotus’ live sets, and here they were powerful—but sometimes overpowering. Watching the crowd wild out to “Shake Weight” in 3-D glasses was a treat, though.

Ultimately, what makes Flying Lotus’ sets so engaging is his undeniable commitment to showmanship. As Flylo swung from DJ-ing to rapping, from fusion jazz to trap, he made the crowd feel like they were part of his own celestial realm, and he was a stellar host.