Brixton Academy, London
Most popular bands have trouble with a ‘singles crowd’, but the Flaming Lips have a confetti crowd.
Before the show, I wait while the man next to me Googles ‘the Flamin Lips’. Surely, this Brixton Academy gig is where my childhood love for the band has come to have its coffin nailed shut? It seems too hyped, too overblown… too much.
But, goddammit, Race for the Prize starts up and I cry. I cry, okay? There are streamers and there are colours, and it’s all covered in glitter and the music sounds as if it’s about to burst. Because the Flaming Lips’ reputation is not just due to a confluence of economic factors, experiential spending and the need for cosmic escapism in the face of an increasingly terrifying world. And they’re one of the few bands where the songs actually sound much better live. The textures are different, the volume is important, and the musicianship is, quite frankly, insane.
While numerous singles – She Don’t Use Jelly and The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song – don’t get a look-in, the band are ever the crowd-pleasers. Large Christmas-light tentacles hang from the ceiling, moving up and down in increments for different songs; Wayne rides a giant unicorn during There Should Be Unicorns; and balloons which glued together to form ‘FUCK YEAH LONDON’ are chucked into the crowd. It’s worth noting that the ticket price is £42.
The only sour moment is the discovery that The Flaming Lips are still doing that fucking giant blow-up ball thing, and worse, they’re playing Space Oddity while Coyne is in it. It’s always going to be hard to continue to unselfconsciously love the Flaming Lips when this is what they’ve become. They are never going to play the entirety of Clouds Taste Metallic, and that is something I have come to accept. But the twistedly euphoric chorus of How??, from new album Oczy Mlody, comes close to bridging the gap between an auditorium singing Do You Realize?? at the tops of their lungs, and the gorgeous, wide-angle darkness of a project like The Terror. In spite of the weight of prophecy, there is still plenty here for a Flaming Lips fan.