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The Flaming Lips live at Vicar St, Dublin
There really is no substitute for the first time you see The Flaming Lips live: it’s easy to spot Lips virgins at 20 paces: slack jaw, mouth agape, eyes swollen with something akin to childhood glee.
John Walshe, 01 Dec 2006
When you see Captain America, Wonderwoman, Superman and assorted other comic book heroes checking lines and tuning guitars on stage, it’s pretty clear that one of two things is happening. Either you’ve been spending far too much time with video games and mind-altering substances or The Flaming Lips are in town. Thankfully, for this reviewer, it’s the latter.
There really is no substitute for the first time you see The Flaming Lips live: it’s easy to spot Lips virgins at 20 paces: slack jaw, mouth agape, eyes swollen with something akin to childhood glee. The sense of magic and wonder is palpable.
Tonight, the second of two sell-out shows, sees our heroes arrive on stage flanked by a team of mini-skirted aliens on one side and Santas on the other (including no less luminaries than hotpress’ own Andrew Duffy and Tripod PR supremo Michael McDermot). As they launch into a celebratory ‘Race For The Prize’, the entire ground-floor is awash with giant orange balloons, while the on-stage smoke machine billows out clouds of dense off-white fumes. Meanwhile, at least half the audience are firing red laser lights – Wonderwoman wandered around the crowd before the show, dispensing said goodies to all and sundry – giving the entire auditorium the appearance of one of HP Lovecraft's nightmares come to life, except everybody’s smiling.
‘Free Radicals’ warms us up, while a blistering version of ‘Yoshimi Versus The Pink Robots’ prompts a massive crowd singalong, directed with passion and conversational ease by frontman Wayne Coyne. In an interview situation, Coyne is personable, astute and extremely warm: on-stage he mutates into a bizarre hybrid of Willy Wonka, a fanatical orchestra conductor and old-school preacher. Tonight, he’s upstaged somewhat by bandmate Steven Drozd, who’s suffering from a sinus problem which forces him to leave the stage half-way through the show, the gig teetering in the balance. However, after a short break, Drozd and Co. return to the stage, to tumultuous applause and impromptu shouts of “Stevo, Stevo” from the stalls.
At times, suspicion creeps in that some of the Lips’ material isn’t up to scratch: without the assorted props, balloons, puppets etc, some songs just wouldn’t hold your attention. But when they blast out tunes like the gloriously dumb ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ or the almost religious fervour of ‘Do You Realise?’, they’re one of the most hypnotic and unmissable live acts in the world. Two encores – ‘White Christmas’ and ‘War Pigs’ – send Vicar Street delirious, ensuring that the capacity crowd spills forth into the cold November night with sloppy grins and warm glows.