Live Review: The Flaming Lips at Roundhouse, London
Published on May 30th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Rocksucker has seen The Flaming Lips live enough times now that it’s almost become a perfunctory activity. On the bus on the way over to the lush environs of Camden’s (well, Chalk Farm’s) prestigious Roundhouse venue, a sense of duty made itself known, like a doctor’s pager alerting or someone flashing the Bat-Signal. When the greatest band in the world are in town, you drop what you’re doing and go.
Literally, whenever: due to the illness of front man and all-round Flaming Lips’ public face Wayne Coyne, the show had been postponed by a week, landing it on the evening to our early-morning arrival back from Barcelona’s Primavera Sound. The total absence of sleep made us grateful for the seated tickets we’d only snapped up as standing was sold out, our addled state decidedly in the mood for the stark wilderness of the Lips’ Steven Drozd-driven new album The Terror. How nice, then, that its tracks are even better in a live setting, thunderous and emboldened beyond the recordings’ murkily fuzzed-out production.
Listening back to The Terror now, all these elements are jumping out at us where before they seemed misted together, perhaps because there is so much going on in there. Rocksucker played the record to death when it came out the other month and, for all that we were mesmerised by it, it hadn’t hit us for six the way its immediate predecessors Embryonic and At War With the Mystics had. Belatedly – if indeed you can describe a month or so as belatedly – this is now happening. You’ve done it again, you fearless freaks.
The show itself was a typically spectacular visual feast encompassing black confetti, otherworldly displays of lights and some bizarre space-age podium from which Coyne compered proceedings. Unfortunately one member of the audience had a bad reaction to the lights, but the band dealt with the worrying situation both sensitively and sensibly, ceasing the performance while she received medical attention. Coyne delivered a string of reassuring messages and then nipped off to check up on her shortly after she was taken away, so hats off to him and best wishes to her.
Elsewhere we were treated to a faithful rendition of David Bowie’s “Heroes”, a ‘slow singalong’ version of “Race to the Prize” in the style of their nun puppet (!) “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”, the ever-enchanting “All We Have is Now”, stomping Mystics cut “The W.A.N.D.”, euphoric golden oldie “Moth in the Incubator” (performed, according to the band, for the first time since Reading ’96), the anthemic “Do You Realize??” (handed over to the audience by Coyne on account of his having struggled with it through illness last time out) and pulsating Embryonic number “Silver Trembling Hands”.
“I forgot the ending to that one,” announced Coyne after “Moth in the Incubator”, referring – or so Rocksucker would like to think – to the three-minute instrumental section during which he stood aloft on the bizarre podium and twirled one of those microphonic noise tubes around in the air. And they played Os Mutantes just before they came onstage. What a band. Where was Michael Ivins, though?
Rocksucker says: Five Quails out of Five!
The Terror is out now on Warner Bros.
For more information, please visit The Flaming Lips’ official website.