Do you realize…that The Flaming Lips are the greatest live band this side of the lesser Magellenic cloud and that The Young Knives are the best support band since Pink Floyd supported George Formby at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1754. It’s true I tell you, I have the migraine to prove it.
Goddammit, pre-gig I was messing about on the internet and found the date for The Flaming Lips first Rock City appearance, it was 1995, that was mad crazy, tonight was positively deranged (I should know, I was there in 95 as well).
I will leave you in suspense whilst I digress and write about Young Knives, a trio from the wilds of Leicestershire. I don’t know if they’ve been ingesting copious amounts of genetically modified crops but something’s been making them decidedly unhinged.
They’re a perfect foil for the Lips, they have their own bargain bin psychedelic stage show to accompany their fiery and at times really vicious set, playing material predominantly from Sick Octave, a Neonfiller Top 20 Album of 2013. They wrestle the songs to the ground, help them up and then kick ‘em back down again.
Frontman Henry Dartnell in particular is a focal point, summoning up the spirits of Joe Strummer, The Gang of four and even elements of free jazz and an early Mothers of Invention cacophony. To his left, dressed in Guantanamo orange boiler suit and paper mache Frank Sidebottom type head, is his brother Thomas, who lays down some dirty bass and keyboards. On Barbi-sized drum kit, Oliver Askew holds it all together (well almost). Their set is a head brew of chaotic, psychotic punk rock with just a hint of an invasive melodic chorus. They went down really well with everyone, apart from the miserable tall teenager with his immobile father in front of me. Losers.
The Flaming Lips
That was the two veg and now here is the meat, literally as The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne saunters on in a muscle onesie, looking from a distance like a bearded Greek god with his skin flayed off, he wraps himself in 500 miles of tinsel and is greeted like Jesus at teatime. The love, you could feel the love, it was a night of love, the band assemble around him and prepare for take off.
There was a bloke dressed as a gorilla standing next to me and a man with a giant mushroom on his head nearby as a ticker tape snowstorm started the dry ice enveloped the stage and strobes strafed the crowd. It was like The Blitz on acid.
Festivities begin with a blast from the past, ‘The abandoned hospital ship’ from Clouds Taste Metallic then the place went ballistic as ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ is turned into a huge singalong…as is Yoshimi, then we got some mind meltingly crunchy instrumental workouts, ‘In the Morning of the Magicians’ and ‘Watching the Planets. ‘
‘Feeling Yourself Disintegrate’ was prefaced by Coyne telling us it’s a sad song, but don’t get upset, just feel the love. It was incredible and the mood lifted 47 notches skyward for the anthemic ‘Race for the Prize’, from Soft Bulletin.
The Flaming Lips
‘Look the Sun is Rising’, ‘The Wand’ and ‘Try to Explain’ were one part emotionally draining, nine parts falling into a black hole at the speed of light with your arse on fire, oh my God !… it’s full of love to paraphrase someone in 2001 a space odyssey.
During the rendition of ‘Waiting for Superman’ Coyne fought back tears, he knows the power of this music, he knows how much we love him, its almost tangible.
The encore ? Well it had to be their signature tune ‘Do you Realize’. It sums everything up about this band, it’s a simple song with the most poignant and let’s face it depressing lyric dressed up in a pretty skirt and shoes. But it resonates, it speaks of frailty and finality and it never fails to make me cry and go apeshit. I’m sorry but i can’t remain objective, this band mean the world to me, I lost my best friend Steve last year, he was a huge Flaming Lips fan, when Coyne sang….
‘And instead of saying all of your goodbyes – let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round’
….. i thought of my friend and was reduced to a puddle on the floor.
They love doing cover versions, I’ve heard them do Pink Floyd ‘See Emily Play’, and ‘Breathe’ and ‘War Pigs by Black Sabbath but you will not believe what they ended on, only Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds by The Beatles, ten minutes of absolute heart rending majestic freakoutness.
Rock City has witnessed some amazing moments down the years, this took the biscuit, the tin the pantry, the kitchen, the sink, a more joyous extravagant over the top total sensory overload i have never experienced.
Bang! It’s all over, the lights come on the place looks like a pyschedelic rubbish heap, complete strangers hug and exchange e-mail addresses, people look stunned or stare wildly at the now empty stage, I look round for my brain, can’t find it and leave it behind. The transcendent power of music, some of you won’t understand, hopefully some of you do, I miss you like fuck Steve.
The Abandoned Hospital Ship
She Don’t Use Jelly
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1
In the Morning of the Magicians
Watching the Planets
Feeling Yourself Disintegrate
Race for the Prize
Look…The Sun Is Rising
Try to Explain
Virgo Self-Esteem Broadcast
Silver Trembling Hands
Waitin’ for a Superman
A Spoonful Weighs a Ton
Do You Realize??
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
By John Haylock