The Flaming Lips
Bob Mould and GoldrushEdit this event
- Astoria, London »
If enthusiasm alone was a barometer of rock and roll greatness, this would be the best gig of all time. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to rock’s second childhood, as young whippersnappers and old veterans alike proceed to grace the Astoria with the kind of wide-eyed passion that seems oddly out of sorts in today’s lethargic music scene.
Goldrush, for one, appear to be enjoying themselves up there. Clearly unphased by being the young upstarts on a bill of established leftfield rock legends, they grab the audience’s attention early and keep it there. Still, what would you expect from a band who, though only a couple of singles old, already have their own record label and mini-festival among their list of achievements? And while it would be easy to dismiss Goldrush as little more than a countrified Coldplay, nice, inessential but highly unlikely to really set pulses racing, it’s the little imaginative moments that really elevate them above such mundane associations. Although there’s little in Goldrush’s set you won’t have heard before, the band subvert their XFM-friendly melodic rock with a set of off-kilter touches which suggest they may well have a few more ideas up their sleeve. Synths and theremins snake their way through the mix, and on one song they even call in a tuba. The final song heralds the appearance of a full brass section which kicks into a cacophonous, dissonant squall before finally breaking into an uplifting fanfare as the song reaches its euphoric conclusion. Definitely one to watch.
Bob Mould is no stranger to onstage drama. After all, this is a man who now works as a scriptwriter for WCW Wrestling. Strange, then, that his live return should fall so oddly flat. Shorn of his band, Bob launches into his set, largely culled from his ‘Modulate’ album, with customary verve. But you have to question the wisdom of playing raucous post-punk over a backing tape. It’s far too imbalanced, for one thing, with Bob’s guitar drowning out most of the backing, the equivalent of listening to ten renditions of REM’s ‘Let Me In’. Still, the quality of Mould’s back catalogue eventually wins out as the likes of ‘No Reservations’ and ‘Hoover Dam’ still send shivers down the spine, but they need the force of a full band behind them to really reach their full power.
In contrast, The Flaming Lips have honed their particular psychedelic fairground ride down to a fine art. The band step out, dressed as rabbits and frogs, in front of a huge cinema screen brimming with all manner of weird and wonderful images, and immediately the excitement is tangible. The Lips may be in town to promote their new album, ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’, but in essence this is the same show the Lips have been hawking since ‘The Soft Bulletin’. Wayne Coyne still sings ‘The Spark That Bled’ dripping with fake blood; he still straps on a strobe light for ‘Lightning Strikes The Postman’; ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ is still vastly more affecting than such an inane song deserves to be; and they’re still using those bloody glove puppets.
New songs slot effortlessly into the set, which is heavy on tracks from their last album, as Wayne explains his distaste for alienating the audience with too much new material at once. Coyne, the rock and roll Billy Crystal, is still (somewhat depressingly) one of the few frontmen out there who make a real attempt to actually engage with his audience, and his ramblings are a joy to behold. He introduces a cover of ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ by saying "this is a song you’ll recognise even if you’re just here to snort cocaine with your friends", and muses on Kylies famous rear by saying "I hear she’s had surgery on it. But anyone who wants to make the world a more beautiful place is alright with me". The cover itself is poor, like Travis’ rendition of ‘Baby One More Time’ it’s slowed down to the point of sounding almost mournful and lacks any of the joyous synthetic bounce of the original. But it’s the sole blemish in an otherwise outstanding gig.
As the Lips stand in front of three gigantic rotating mirrorballs, huge confetti-filled balloons bounce around the audience, which Coyne bursts whenever they reach him, showering the band. And while there’s something slightly strange at watching three middle-aged men bounding around like kids in a toy shop their enthusiasm is utterly infectious. Although it would be easy to dwell on the sadness lurking at the heart of songs like ‘Waiting For A Superman’ and ‘Do You Realize?’, and you do wonder what must be going on inside the mind of a recovering heroin addict dressed as a giant bunny, but it would be equally churlish. By the time they reach a final, magical ‘What Is The Light?’, all cynicism is dispelled. You expect to step out onto the street to find the ground laden with snow and bluebirds sitting on the shoulders of passers-by. It isn’t, of course, but for just over an hour all is well in Lipland. Long may it continue to be so.
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