Flaming Lips add day-glo theatre to the Troxy

Flaming Lips – Troxy, London, 10 November

With so many apps appearing on the iPhone – including the new ‘Guitar Toolkit’ and ‘Mini Synth’ it is practically now possible that live performance can be facilitated through just a phone!   Maybe in the not-too distant future a whole band will just march on stage, each with their trusty iPhone and conjure a whole gamut of sounds without the use of a single instrument or prop – just with the sacred phone in hand.   Of course as visual spectacles go that would be completely anaemic and utterly uninspiring.   So thank goodness for bands such as the Flaming Lips for maintaining the theatre of performance and stretching the boundaries of extravagance.  Much like ken kesey’s ‘Merry Band of Pranksters’ in the 1960’s Wayne Coyne and his cosmic brothers defy convention and celebrate life with a sensory spectacle.

Beginning with each band member appearing from between the thighs of a gyrating girl – the pornographic back screen reveals a secret door from where the band appear and walk down a set of stairs.   Coyne goes one step further and in the interests of satisfying fans expectations appears in his now familiar plastic ball – rolling his way across the front of the crowd.   First song ‘Race for the Prize’ explodes in balloons and ticker tape  and somewhere amongst all the mayhem the band lift the tale of scientific discovery into a celebratory anthem.    The band only play a handful of new songs tonight – preferring the more crowd pleasing choices from their last two albums.    The popular decision pays off – particularly during the mass sing along of an acoustic ‘Yoshimi’, an energetic ‘ The Yeah, Yeah, Yeah song’ and triumphant set closer ‘Do you realize’.  The rest of the set was cleverly interspersed with a few darker moments from their latest album, ‘Embryonic’  with the song ‘Evil’ exuding an element of malevolence with its icy synths and spatial melodrama.   These lucid moments of mood and atmospherics were mainly overshadowed by the moments of day-glo intensity and madcap props – Coyne standing on a gorilla’s shoulders during ‘Silver Trembling hands’, confetti falling from the sky while Coyne bangs a glowing  gong during Proggy number ‘Pompeii Am’, and an explosion of green lasers after the introspective ‘Fight Test’.

It was an impressive show, even though at times it felt like the gimmicks were overshadowing the music.   But that is exactly how a Flaming Lips concert is dreamt up: a marriage of sensory excitement, madcap fun and philosophical musings, all delivered through a psychedelic filter.  It takes a little bit more than a phone to achieve this!

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