The last thing the audience sees at the Flaming Lips’ Roundhouse appearance – rescheduled from the previous week due to Wayne Coyne falling ill – is an array of blinding lights, trippy visuals and a seemingly never-ending stream of black confetti. All of this, accompanied with the power of their music, adds up to a near-unrelenting concert experience that few bands can replicate.
To describe the staging would take a while and wouldn’t even come close to fully capturing its intensity. The star of the show is undoubtedly Coyne himself, perched on top of a platform that makes him look like an evangelical preacher from space. At times he acts it, constantly getting the audience on side and urging them on to cheer and sing. It’s easy to forget the musicianship of the rest of the band, who are more than happy to hide away behind the strobes, but they are rock solid and don’t put a foot wrong all evening.
The set is mostly filled with tracks from The Terror. Those who listened to their newest work will have wondered how it would make sense when performed live but the surprising, and very satisfying, result is that some of it is even better than on record. In particular, the drones that transform into an explosion of noise during Turning Violent, the urgency of show opener Look…The Sun Is Rising and the juddering force of Try To Explain are outstanding.
It’s a shame that the middle section of the gig seems to stall a little, albeit with entirely understandable reasoning. As soon as it’s known that one fan was having a reaction to the intensity of the lights, Coyne halts proceedings for a while to ensure that the medics take care of her. As much as the momentum goes, it’s hard to begrudge him for the way that he handled it and it is genuinely heartwarming to see him run off backstage to make sure that the fan was OK. Eventually, things return to normal and the atmosphere becomes more positive once they unleash their take on David Bowie‘s Heroes. As much as it stays true to the original, it’s euphoria is infectious and lifts the mood in the room.
That’s not to forget their older material. Trying to condense a 30-year discography into an hour-and-a-half is almost impossible but they give it a good go and, amidst the darkness of The Terror, some of it seems all the more life-affirming by comparison. All We Have Is Now proves that, amidst the density of their aesthetic, there is a heart in their songwriting, whilst Do You Realize?? is a fitting closer to the main set. It’s a song they have probably played countless times yet, judging from Coyne’s grin throughout, is one they will never get tired of.
The Flaming Lips have not always made music in the most simplest ways but, in a live setting, their aim is straightforward – to create a moment in time that pleases all the senses whilst also unifying hundreds of people. On that basis, they will consider this a mission accomplished as the last of the confetti slowly descends.