So this is the third time I’ve been to see The Lips now, which makes me a groupie I guess. I managed to miss most of the support act “Stardeath and White Dwarfs” only catching their charismatic cover of “Borderline” by Maddona. That’s right. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I think I might be a bit too old to find Madonna covers funny.
After a bit of rabble rousing from the roadies Wayne took to the stage to give us a quick warning about strobe lights and also to warn those in front about his imminent stroll through the crowd in an enormous inflatable hamster ball. This took some of the joy out of the moment when he did actually crowd surf in his ball, but only a little because the sight of a grown man getting so much pleasure out of such a simple act was truly heart-warming…especially when he was “birthed” out of an enormous LED vagina.
So to the strains of “Race for the Prize” and accompanied by giant balloons, confetti bombs and dancing fan-imals another Flaming Lips show kicks off. And it occurs to me that every Lips show I have ever seen has kicked off with “Race for the Prize”. Now don’t get me wrong it’s a great song, and they always perform it with love and care and enthusiasm, but as other songs “The Magician”, “Yoshimi” whizz past, my sense of déjà-vu grows stronger. They have played almost exactly the same set every time I have seen them and that’s over a period of five years, mostly culled from “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots”, “At War With The Mystics” and “Soft Bulletin” (with a few oldies or covers thrown in). Now, for a band that has been going since the 80’s, this represents a very limited selection of their music. It was a pleasure to hear “She Don’t Use Jelly” and also the three new songs from “Embryonic” (which I thought were very good) but I was under the impression that this was the tour to support “Embryonic”. Is it unreasonable to think that they might have played most of the album?
The vague sense of disenchantment I felt was exacerbated by the exponential increase in the power of the cult of Wayne. I like Wayne Coyne, I think he writes great songs, he’s witty and funny and somewhat of a polymath. But sometimes, Wayne, we would like you to play a song without talking for ten minutes before and after. Sometimes, Wayne, we would like you to finish a song without going through the whole thing again (accapella) demanding a round of applause at the end of every verse. Oh and most importantly, I don’t mind singing along with you (begrudgingly), but I do draw the line at being implored to do peace signs. I’m not pro-war, I’m just anti-being bossed around at gigs I’ve paid £20 for.
I think everyone should see the Flaming Lips live at least once. They are an exceptionally positive and fun band to see live, and showmanship is what Wayne Coyne is all about. But I came away from this gig with the definite feeling that I wouldn’t bother to go and see them again until they take a more experimental approach to their live sets.