The Flaming LipsEdit this event
Wayne Coyne is a talkative chap. Between most of the songs he and his band perform this evening, there is some kind of story, some kind of anecdote pertaining to a worldly wrong, be it Donald Rumsfeld or George Bush, perhaps even those among us who tell you life only gets harder as you go on. These stories and anecdotes, charming as they are, are nowhere near as splendid as the pure synesthesia flung into your face when he just shuts up.
Beginning in earnest after the Hammersmith Town Cryer has had a go at Bush as well, with a taped version of the finale to Stravinsky's 'Firebird Suite' (with added cymbals and bombast) and the utterly engrained image of Wayne Coyne crowd-surfing in a massive opaque bubble, The Flaming Lips are here to genuinely try and change the world.
And the ringing, soaring 'Race For The Prize' might just convince everyone they can do it. Massive balloons ping around the arena, jets of streamers kaboom into the ceiling and stick to the disco balls, people are jumping and dancing, thrilled with life. It's literally chaos and pandemonium, akin to being in the finest riot you could possibly imagine. And we're sat on the balcony, comparatively motionless to all those revelling in the pit below us. Our lofty position does allow us, though, an excellent view of the merry destruction. One side of the stage is taken up with dancing Santa Clauses, the other with dancing Martians, presumably in keeping with the band's oft-referred to motion picture in the making. Each member of both factions has a flashlight, and they are not afraid to use them. This, coupled with the piercing green lasers and the exhaustive strobes and house lights, makes for the most consummate and involving audio-visual experience in modern rock music.
Cuts from their latest LP, At War With The Mystics, find the Lips playing with breezy ease, a coasting ride through songs that already feel like classic elements of their back-catalogue. 'Yeah Yeah Yeah Song' is delirious fun, and 'My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion' is probably the most lush and fulfilling thing we hear all evening, full of ample-bodied shots of Steven Drozd's exceptionally hummable guitar riffs and sonic squelches that leave one pleasurably queasy. It is Drozd, however, that remains the unspoken focus of these shows. He meticulously directs every noisy wig-out from behind his bank of keyboards, all descriptive gestures and motions to tell the hordes what to do. And, inexplicably, he speaks tonight in a high-pitched Liverpudlian squeal. Fair play.
The set finishes with a spectacularly bucolic 'Do You Realize?', but the fun is just beginning. There are some in the crowd who are familiar with The Lips' version of Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody', but not nearly enough - it is simply stirring, and the definite equal of the original. One feels that Freddie Mercury would have been rather pleased with Coyne & co.'s demented, spasticated and joyously over-egged interpretation, full of oddities and missed guitar solos, anomalies to the moustachioed mastermind that conceived it. But it proves to be the biggest sing-along of the night, unsurprisingly. As Coyne intones that "nothing really matters to me", it seems completely at odds with all the ramblings he has been lambasting us with tonight.
Maybe that’s the point. Maybe it is all just for nothing. Maybe we've been told tales tonight of false hope and the insane belief that we're not careering towards oblivion. Maybe? Maybe bollocks. Tonight was life-affirming.
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