Live Review: Flaming Lips (London Alexandra Palace, 01/07/11))

This is a live review written for my own older and now discontinued blog on 2nd July 2011. As this was for my own blog, it ignored various rules, primarily for being a bit too long and a bit too casual. While I shy away from any third-person references, it’s still quite diary-esque. However, it’s here. Enjoy.

The outlandish stage show that goes with any Flaming Lips concert could tempt any reviewer to use the word ‘unexpected’ or ‘unsuspecting’. However, tonight is promoted as a special event. A premium price on tonight’s ticket and promise of a performance of their most critically-acclaimed album from start-to-finish makes it a safe assumption that the crowd is full to the brim of the most obsessive fans. This is confirmed as the audience hang on ever word of even the most obscure album exclusive tracks. While the show inevitably wows everybody, the performance is more about their music than ever.

The band arrive by spectacular means, through the video screen backdrop followed by frontman Wayne Coyne surfing over the crowd in an inflatable bubble. It almost feels redundant after his exposure for the last couple of hours, standing at the side of the stage, watching supporters Dinosaur Jr and Deerhoof. He had helped the road crew onstage before the show and even addressed the crowd, warning them about the many, many… many strobe lights.

As soon as the opening track ‘Race For the Prize’ begins, the audience are treated to a surge of giant balloons, enough that some would survive until the end of the show, and enough confetti to choke an audience. Any hope of even seeing the band could be forgotten for a while. Coyne requests that the crowd sing the final words of second track ‘A Spoonful Weighs a Ton’, as if they are having an orgasm, and the audience oblige. The air-punching vibe of ‘The Spark That Bled’, is followed by an extended coda with Coyne firing laser beams at a mirror ball, proves to be the highlight of the night. It is a quintessential, hypnotic moment as they fire over and into the audience. Never before has the danger of being blinded been so appealing.

The best example of the band-audience connection is Coyne’s introduction and performance of rarity ‘Slow Motion’. It is only its second ever performance due to the strain it puts on his voice. He askes for the audience’s help. At any other concert, this would probably be dismissed as a sore lack of talent or a plea for attention from a disinterested group of misery-gutses. But this is different. The bond between the band and their fans isn’t just a following, it feels more like a friendship, and everyone happily obliges.

However, this is also the biggest flaw of the show, Coyne just never stops blabbering. He is a textbook example of chronic verbal diarrhoea. It’s fair enough reflecting and discussing a few of the Soft Bulletin tracks, and interacting with everybody, but it destroy the flow a flawless singular piece of work. Ultimately, they could quite easily have squeezed in a couple more encore songs, as was the plan according to the setlist. Even guitarist Steven Drozd’s talkbox is set up for use in their highest charting hit ‘The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song’, which fails to materialise. Due to time constraints, after Wayne’s difficulty shutting up and someone collapsing at the front, they can only play one, their peculiarly jolly song of death ‘Do You Realize??’. Just 75 minutes of their 100 minute slot has spent performing their music.

Though that is impossible to brush away, when Flaming Lips do finally play, they are first class. They stay true to the album, but have such bonus oomph that although the several thousand people present know exactly what is coming next, the fans don’t mind one bit.

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