Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Review of The Flaming Lips at the Roundhouse in London on May 27, 2013

What the heck did we do to deserve that?

Forget Yoshimi, the evil robots have definitely won. Gone are the dancing animals, the space bubble, the balloons and the feeling that it's good to be alive. Instead we got a retina-searing light show and ninety minutes of nihilistic, ear-numbing motorway pile-ups.

Even Do You Realize?, that carpe diem band anthem, was turned into a funereal dirge. But at least that had a recognisable tune. Most of the set was was made up of the soul-crushingly desperate soundtrack to a heroin overdose that is their unlistenable new album, The Terror.

Wayne's signature white, fake-blood-spattered suit has been replaced by a blue satin number, his confetti gun swapped for a handheld light beam that he used to sporadically machine-gun the muttering Roundhouse crowd from his podium of light. His microphone-cam of smiles replaced by a weird baby doll he cuddled during the opening numbers.

Unsurprisingly, the industrial-strength strobe lighting proved too much for one fan 50 minutes in. The show was halted by Wayne for ten minutes while medics ushered out the victim of what sounded like an epileptic fit.

"Yeah - that happens. Our lights are fuckin' intense. But if you feel you're starting to panic, here's the thing - just don't look at them," advised Wayne. Yeah, cheers for that.

Two tracks after the hiatus, one of them a memorable version of Bowie's Heroes which was bizarrely and worryingly the highlight of the night, and Wayne nipped backstage to check on his stricken fan. "She's alright!" he reported to the remaining battle-scarred crowd. Having a great time like the rest of us.

Wayne - instead of trying to frazzle our brains why not play us some of your majestic, joyous songs? Not the two melody-free buzz-guitar feedback fests that should have been left safely in 1996, but the ones the couples in the plastic Hawaiian garlands had come to hear - tunes from Yoshimi and The Soft Bulletin, Tangerine. We did get a grudging, pared-down version of Race For The Prize - usually a triumphant opener - but even that felt like the race had been well and truly lost. Swap those garlands for a noose.

Then at the end of the night Wayne stood near the exit and punched every one of us in the face on the way out. Well, he may as well have done.


  1. I like the mixed reviews this new show is getting. Having seen them play a couple of times before complete with space bubble and balloons I was a bit skeptical of the reactions I'd read to their new show prior to seeing it (and I certainly wouldn't say I'm a fan of the new album) but in contrast to you, I was actually pleasantly surprised last night. I like to see a band trying something new rather than just knocking out the same familiar guaranteed crowd-pleasers and lets face it, they've been doing the space bubble thing for what seems like eternity now. I also thought the new stuff made far more sense live. My impression from the crowd too was that it was largely well received...I guess it's interesting to see how differently two people can experience the same gig.

  2. This was the fourth time I have seen the Flaming Lips and possibly their best show to date. The medical incident clearly broke the momentum but the new album was immense live. Long live the Fearless Freaks, never afraid to push into new territory.

  3. Very pleased to see some fans enjoyed the new stuff. I get it that bands have to move on but how does that explain the two dreadful songs from 1996? I've seen them loads of times - Glastonbury, T in the Park, Hammersmith, Camp Bestival, Alexandra Palace, Docklands - and the sense of joy that followed them around had vanished. I really hope they get it back.

  4. Dear David. It would seem that experiment and 'musical plethora' is something that leaves you in a bit of a 'cul-de-sac'. If you like 'The Flaming Lips' then just what is it that you don't get about a band that won't be pinned down, will constantly experiment, and will often get it wrong - in the past and in the present - i.e. - be prepared to fail. Although this concert and this album (The Terror) are anything but - they have nothing to get back - as they're always there. As for the retina-searing light show - that was cool - and I'm 48 - you look a bit older - and my friend that I went with is 54 with epilepsy - he just closed his eyes when it got too intense. I suggest ABBA tribute bands for you in the future. Although, if ABBA got back together for real, I'd be there. Life is a very. very, rich tapestry...don't get too worried about it!

    1. I love Bjorn Again, Simon. Great show at Kew a couple of years ago. I booked the real Bjorn for a CNN interview this month. He said they'd only reform if Bonnie Tyler won Eurovision. The wait goes on.

    2. Yes - I read your profile after I posted the above. Then your band likes. Very eclectic. It appears that we have (the Lips apart) The Smiths, ABBA and A Prayer for Owen Meany in common. Then I think we part company.

      I guess that just leaves us with Baccara then. Or Aivaris. Now there's a test for a Eurovision buff...

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