Flaming Lips:The Soft Bulletin,Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,Father Christmas, sexy elves and lasers... Back to basics...
Flaming Lips: Tour Over the Top?
Wayne Coyne and Co's At War With
The Mystics Tour a Bit of a Circus
The Flaming Lips are renowned for their magical live shows. But at London's Hammersmith Apollo on the 'At War with the Mystics' tour, they showed signs of decline.
Can you have too much of a good thing? It’s not a question that is often asked about Oklahoma’s favourite sons, The Flaming Lips. But although Wayne Coyne and the boys were still pretty damn good on the At War with the Mystics tour, the answer is probably ‘yes’.
The Soft Bulletin
The Lips first won over the great British public on the ‘Soft Bulletin’ tour. At the Royal Albert Hall, the venue was awe-inspiring, and the gig itself felt like a rave: bright lights, ecstatically smiling faces, giant balloons, confetti, puppets… not to mention their finest-ever album, sympathetically played. They played the gig of a lifetime and the audience stumbled home in a haze of joy.
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Soon there were legions of Lips true believers, buying tickets every time they toured. The vast majority enjoyed every gig: it’s always difficult to replicate that brain-blasting first rush of amazement, but ‘Yoshimi’ was a pretty decent record and the band was never less than entertaining.
Father Christmas, sexy elves and lasers...
but where were the songs?
But by the time of this gig, something peculiar had happened. The son et lumiere bombardment was even more dazzling than usual: the fans were treated to a town crier, sexy elves, Father Christmases, Wayne walking through the crowd in a giant Perspex ball, ticker-tape, strobes and awesome lasers. But there was a hole in the middle where the songs should have been.
The Lips may be critical darlings, incapable – like Tom Waits or Bob Dylan – of getting a bad review. But the new album just isn’t very memorable. Their first mediocre record for over a decade, it starts off with two great singles then wanders around doing not very much for the rest of its course. So for the first Lips tour in memory, the quality control began to falter, and several average songs reared their heads – one sounding alarmingly like Deep Purple. Other factors also began to grate: Wayne’s getting preachier all the time, and the crowd doesn’t need to be told that George Bush is an arse – like every gig-goer in the world, they know it already thanks! There are too many pretty, sound-alike cosmic ballads. And the sound quality seemed slightly out, as well.
Back to basics?
So, newcomers may well have been dazzled. But it seems that nowadays, a Lips show is a brilliant circus with some songs attached – rather than the great gig with awesome visuals of yesteryear. The band has become overwhelmed by its props: maybe it’s time to go back to basics.
© Ben Wood
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