The Flaming Lips - Hammersmith Apollo, London

It’s funny, you think you pay your money to see a band play their songs, and yet you never cease to be amazed when most of the audience spends the entire gig trying to hit a balloon that is heading towards them. The look on the faces of those “lucky few” that do hit a balloon towards a different direction is of sheer happiness; fitting then that this is a Flaming Lips gig, a band whose popularity is probably bigger in the UK now than their North American homeland, and a band who thrive on providing the ultimate party atmosphere.

It’s the second night of the biggest venue the band have ever played in barring festivals, and it’s strange to find some people here in Hammersmith actually have tickets to stand in the balcony sections. Their latest album Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots was a major critical and commercial hit which even saw the title track hit the Top 20 and put the band on Top Of The Pops. No wonder they’ve sold out a second night here at the Apollo.

Frontman Wayne Coyne is the typical greasy haired charming Wedding singer type in his full cream suit, and he adds a touch of down-to-earth grace about him when he is seen setting up the equipment along with the roadies, or maybe he just can’t get enough of that stage. When the band do begin, it’s Race For The Prize off The Soft Bulletin that the crowd are treated to first, brilliantly synched with the onscreen video sequences that are projected behind the band. People are dressed in animal costumes at the sides of the stage, and those damned balloons seem to be multiplying. Jokingly enough, the next song to be played is a cover of The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army with Wayne using a megaphone. They originally covered the song in an ironic fashion when replacing Jack & Meg at the T In The Park Festival.

Fight Test is the first track aired off the Yoshimi… album, and it’s given a welcome nod of approval from fans who lap up the band’s stage gimmickry. The mood is then distracted by Wayne’s anti-war, anti-Arnie, Blair & Bush preaching which goes on far too long. Hey look, that balloon looks like it may be coming this way...

Is Wayne Coyne insecure? He pleads for more audience participation whilst in his own justification mode, and he constantly tries to pontificate on his job as band frontman. Playing Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part I pleases the crowd, and before you know it The Lips have ripped through the best tracks of their latest album and The Soft Bulletin, whilst also throwing in a stomping feelgood version of She Don’t Use Jelly and singing Happy Birthday to five audience members who claim it’s their special day. The band’s Chemical Brothers collaboration The Golden Path is given a decent rockier makeover, and before you know it the band have played ninety minutes and they finish with Do You Realize???.

The encore provides three songs, including a megaphone backed version of White Christmas, sung fittingly in the first week of November. It seems Wayne looks for any tenuous excuse to tie in with a special occasion, but we forgive him because he throws in a rambling tribute to Elliott Smith.

The band leave the stage for good, clocking in at an hour and forty five minutes, and everyone seems to go home happier, even if most of the music seems to have played second fiddle to the actual ‘show’ tonight, but that’s what has endeared The Lips to our hearts, and who cares if Wayne’s croaky almost non-existent vocal doesn’t quite cut it live? We came, we saw, we had a good time, and we even got close to a balloon.

Last updated: 19/04/2018 15:08:48

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