REVIEW: The Flaming Lips

REVIEW: The Flaming Lips

'True Love Will Find You In The End'

The Flaming Lips perform 'The Soft Bulletin'
Hamer Hall, Thursday Oct 3, 2019

As one of the linchpins of this years Melbourne Arts Festival, The Flaming Lips led us on a kaleidoscopic trip through all the truisms of this old thing called life… hurt, heartbreak, hope and salvation. Resplendent in tight white linen suit, accessorised with what resembled a hybrid of parachute harness and bondage gear, Wayne Coyne and his Flaming Lips were here to deliver a good time – but with one stipulation – it was going to have to be a team effort.

If we thought we were just going to be permitted to sit back and let the energy of a normal Lips show wash over us, we were very much mistaken. From the outset, Coyne laid down the gauntlet… promising that the band would simply reflect those self same energy levels that we could generate, right back at us…

REVIEW: The Flaming Lips
Wayne Coyne

"Whenever you applaud and go crazy, we will respond... So... we are the Flaming Lips... We've come all the way from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to play for you tonight.... We haven't played this venue before, it's pretty crazy, pretty great, pretty luscious and comfortable, looks good and sounds great... BUT... you may be used to sitting there, you know, thinking 'okay, you're gonna sit there and we're gonna do a show'... but we want you to be really as crazy as you can fucking be... we want you to SCREAM... and CRY... and be a part of OUR thing and we'll be a part of YOUR thing and we'll make SOMETHING SPECIAL happen here okay? OKAY, here we GO!...C'mon... it's STARTING!"

Kicking off proceedings with the classic heart starter ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ the band’s two flanking confetti guns exploded up and out over the audience and in a matter of seconds, the normally prim and proper Hamer Hall resembled a joyous grown-ups kindergarten party… awash with confetti and giant balloons. The crowd, sensing tonight was already shaping up to be something different, instinctively surged out of their seats and packed in close down the front. Inflatable orbs filled all sightlines, creating havoc for photographers valiantly trying to get their precious shots. Coyne has obviously had lots of practice bouncing these massive balloons off the stage and up into the audience – within the first song, they had found their way into every nook and cranny of Hamer... the choir stalls and even all the way up three levels to the top deck... Bedlam… but all very uplifting.

Lips’ resident Balloon typographer Shelby Stong delivered tonights silver creation to Coyne at the end of ‘Race Is The Prize’ ... it read ‘FUCK YEAH MELBOURNE!’ and after being surrendered to the crowd, it was excitedly dismembered – individuals souveniring each letter in super quick time. I did notice an E survived without being punctured and was held aloft proudly by its new owner whenever Coyne made a drug reference.

‘Spark That Bled’ saw the photographers marched out and then it was time for the ‘Spiderbite Song’… No mention tonight from Coyne about the true story behind the bite… apparently after sticking to the script for decades, the guitarist Steven Drozd admitted his arm was actually abscessed as a result of his heroin use rather than because of the spider bite.

REVIEW: The Flaming Lips
Steven Drozd

At the end of the song, Coyne senses a lull and revs up the audience once again:

"C'mon you GOTTA help scream, C'MON... let's do it!... You know, I feel like a lot of our music... it's just 'slightly' low key mid tempo emotional songs and if you guys don't go crazy, we'll all just kinda start sobbing or we have to do the OPPOSITE... you have to help us... you're not really screaming for US... you're really screaming so this room can just be filled up with all this fucking CRAZY energy... so come on... you can do it... it's like taking a drug... a really good legal healthy drug... you're coming in the room with the Flaming Lips, everybody takes the drug... and we all start feeling really fucking good... and we have energy to give, we have love to give... I WISH they made that drug... I wish SOMEONE made it... I would take it ALL THE TIME!"

You have to hand it to Wayne... he is a gutsy charismatic frontman... very shortly after this he has the whole audience making buzzing noises impersonating some imaginary outback Australian insects that he then proceeds to conduct louder and softer as an accompaniment to 'Buggin'...

REVIEW: The Flaming Lips
Michael Ivins

Hearing ‘The Soft Bulletin’ in full, played from stem to stern in original order (almost!) was superb. The renditions were instrumentally flawless. Personal highlights from the album for me were the poignancy of ‘Waiting for a Superman’, ’The Gash’ with its amazing psychedelic gong and lighting effects and the beautiful album closer ’Sleeping on the Roof’. The repertoire was thematically so varied that there was something delivered tonight that struck a chord with each and every one of us.

As I came to realise during tonights performance, the indelible magic in any Flaming Lips show is that, quite apart from the obvious stellar musicianship, they are a band that has always put themselves out there, stretching the limits of their capabilities, charting new musical territories… Add to that the fact that Wayne’s voice has a shakiness that imbues each performance with a certain vulnerability… one feels there’s every good chance it all might derail mid-performance. In its own idiosyncratic way, that factor alone lends the band and their gigs an undeniable uncertainty and edginess.

During the encore break, the lights went down for a few moments and roadies worked manically in the half light. Effectively screened from sight by the smoke machines, a giant pink robot suddenly inflated above the haze, dwarfing the band… signalling it was time for ‘Yoshimi Pt. 1’.

REVIEW: The Flaming Lips

After initial lacklustre crowd participation at the karate chop part in the first verse, Coyne stopped the song momentarily and took time to contextualise the theme of the song… explaining:

"Look, I know we've made it seem like this song is about a giant pink robot and it may seem like the pink robot has to do battle with a determined karate chopping warrior...

but REALLY this song is about YOUR DEAR DEAR FRIEND.

And your dear friend has to do something that YOU KNOW is impossible.

But your dear friend DOESN'T KNOW that it's impossible.

So... when your dear friend comes to you and says,
"Do you think I can do it… do you believe in me?"...
you ALWAYS tell them, ALWAYS...

"I know... I know SHE CAN BEAT THEM... OH YOSHIMI..."

It was yet another sweet and sincere moment that will stay with me for a very long time.

A beautifully poignant cover of a gorgeous Daniel Johnston song 'True Love Will Find You' was next up, which the Lips initially performed at a benefit concert in Austin, Texas – for the songwriter when he was still alive. Coyne remarked that since Daniel’s passing, it’s now very much a sad song for them to sing but that the band felt so honoured that they had had the opportunity. Tonight, as Wayne sang, you could have heard a pin drop… everyone was touched by the utter simplicity, honesty and beauty. Gorgeous delivery.

REVIEW: The Flaming Lips

If anything, the sentiment expressed in this song embodied the main takeout of the evening. When the world is in turmoil and there is so much we could choose to be depressed about, what else can we actually do for our own sanity and mental health, but laugh, sing and continue to celebrate the positive… and do our best to have a good time and enjoy the company of these around us…?

The setlist was rounded out in fine style with superb renditions of ‘All We Have Is Now’ and ‘Do You Realise?’, with a giant stage spanning inflatable rainbow and, as was to be expected, way more smoke, confetti and lasers.

The Lips then bid us goodnight and disappeared to the joyful strains of Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World'... Wonderful indeed. They had delivered a revelatory experience... a party – equal parts jubilance, consideration and hope. A performance laced with candid and uplifting sentiments – all expressed with love and everyone’s best interests at heart.

After tonights show, I'm a massive advocate... whatever The Flaming Lips are serving in their smorgasbord of aural delights, it's impossible to resist going back for seconds… it’s food for the soul and just what the world needs more of.

REVIEW: The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips setlist

01 Also Sprach Zarathustra
02 Race For The Prize
03 Spoonful Weighs A Ton
04 Spark That Bled
05 Spiderbite Song
06 Buggin'
07 What Is The Light + The Observer
08 Waitin' For A Superman
09 Suddenly Everything Has Changed
10 The Gash
11 Feeling Yourself Disintergrate
12 Sleeping On The Roof
13 Yoshimi Part 1
14 True Love Will Find You (Daniel Johnston cover)
15 All We Have Is Now
16 Do You Realize?

REVIEW: The Flaming Lips
Adam Dean from BOWIE DOWNUNDER, Wayne Coyne and Harry Williams.

Carbie Warbie's complete photo gallery of The Flaming Lips, is available on our sister music website, GigBill.

REVIEW: The Flaming Lips
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