Flying Lotus | Photo by Morgan Smith |

“Ladies and gentleman, I regret to inform you that you’re already dead.”

These were the opening words of Steven Ellison—aka Flying Lotus—to the crowd at Upper Darby’s Tower Theater, as he stood shrouded behind a prism-like projector screen that could almost pass for a bullhorn. He followed that statement with a swift salvo of beats that sounded anything but dead, certainly never dull.

Indeed, for an album that ostensibly examines and celebrates the moment when death arrives, Ellison’s recent opus You’re Dead! beams with life. In a live setting, it booms and bangs as well. The arrangements were violent yet vibrant, endlessly evolving and mutating into new tangents and melodies for the audience to get ensconced in. Ellison was ensconced as well, in his screen’s blooming 3-D visuals that washed over and wrapped around him. All of this while flanked by a merciless barrage of blinding, kaleidoscopic strobe lights. The result was epilepsy rendered ecstatic, like a phoenix in the throes of fiery resurgence.

More fiery still were the moments when FlyLo took to the mic, spitting his words with white heat that somehow felt both alien amongst his otherworldly compositions (particularly when he briefly stepped out of his prism) and like a welcome anchor. He even managed to pull off a pretty vivid duet with a pre-recorded Snoop Dogg as his Captain Murphy persona on “Dead Man’s Tetris.” Interestingly, his were the only live vocals provided. Frequent collaborator and opener Thundercat performed his FlyLo features separately in the preceding set. With “Murphy” getting more features on this album (and nary a Laura Darlington or Thom Yorke to be heard), perhaps this pseudo-self reliance for live lyricism is something we can expect more of in future releases. He certainly sounds up to the task.

The shape-shifting elasticity of the set made tracking actual songs and sequencing a fool’s errand. It also, however, made the sudden recognition of Dead! delights like the aforementioned “Tetris” and Kendrick Lamar-infused “Never Catch Me” all the more euphoric. The beats and blips of Cosmogrammas and Los Angeles past were there as well, but shuffled and spliced into the newer, improved stands of DNA. When Ellison’s symphonic strand finally did come to a close in starburst of sonic fireworks, his closing promise to “see you all next year” felt less like an ending than a beginning. It was an affirmation that he’s not just living beyond the death explored on this evening, but thriving.

Dying never sounded so alive.