Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Flaming Lips @ Academy, Birmingham

31 October 2003

After tonight’s show, I can’t think of many other bands who are suited to Hallowe’en than The Flaming Lips. Anyone who has seen the Lips will know that their shows are about more than just the music. As Wayne Coyne, lead singer and possible alien said, he hoped they brought more to the proceedings than bands who just come along, play their set, show how cool they are and then leave without so much as a word, apart from telling the audience how great they are.

The Flaming Lips brought some big balloons with them. They also brought tigers, a werewolf, dolphins and pandas – not real ones obviously, but kids dressed in costume who danced around shining torches into the faces of audience members. One downside of this, however, was a break of nearly 10 minutes in proceedings when the panda had a reaction to the constant strobes and collapsed on stage.

Like the music itself, this gig was at times as surreal as an acid trip in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, at times as beautiful as sunrise with a lover, and during a Lips rendition of The White Stripes‘ Seven Nation Army, at times brutal.

Tonight had it all, including, unfortunately a five-minute political broadcast about George Bush, Tony Blair and war. There are times and places for this, and this was neither. You’re a musician, not a politician – I don’t want to hear it at a concert, no matter what you think. Also it doesn’t come across so well when you have fake blood dripping all over your face, 12 foot inflatable balloons flying around the audience, and a make believe fantasy circus behind you.

The Flaming Lips have been going for a long time and probably have enough songs to play for 20 times longer than the 70 minute show they put on tonight. What we got were the best bits from their most recent album Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots – the title track, Fight Test and the delectable Do You Realise, with the catchy chorus, “Do you realise that all the people you know now will one day die.” Never a truer word said.

Every band has at least one calling card and She Don’t Use Jelly is The Flaming Lips’ one. The song was given an airing towards the end of the night and easily got the biggest reaction from a very large crowd made up of a huge cross-section of society, some entering into the Hallowe’en and Flaming Lips spirit by wearing fancy dress.

Perhaps the set was a bit short but this was soon forgotten as the band left the stage with the last notes of Breathe by Pink Floyd still lingering in the air. Forget trick or treating, Hallowe’en should be like this every year. Don’t snort your own brain, just enjoy The Flaming Lips.

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