It’s not every day that you witness a beaming, multi-coloured angel-winged 56-year-old man sailing through a crowd on the back of an electric plastic unicorn. That, alas, is because you don’t see The Flaming Lips every day. These psychedelic circus geeks haven’t earned their reputation as one of the world’s best live acts for nothing. Their shows are life-affirming riots of benign eccentricity and colour. They’re single-handedly keeping the inflatable prop industry alive.
Barrowland, Glasgow ****
Large primary-coloured balloons bob over the heads of their delighted congregation. Curtains of LED strips flash throughout. Dry ice cannons explode at opportune intervals. A pair of oversized toadstools lurk like friendly bouncers at the back of the room.
Singer, ringleader and aforementioned unicorn wrangler Wayne Coyne has co-patented a world of magical escape from the terrors of the outside world. He’s a hippie Willy Wonka, Jeff Lynne through the looking glass, leading his merry band of cohorts and followers into a fleeting form of Eden.
The Flaming Lips are inveterate crowd-pleasers. Not bad for a band whose music is underpinned with an ever-present sense of existential pathos. Their relentless positivity walks hand in hand with the nagging spectre of failure, heartbreak and loss. That’s why a Flaming Lips show is so strangely moving.
Coyne began by conducting a synthesiser symphony a la Close Encounters of the Third Kind, teasing the crowd with its inevitable metamorphosis into the roof-raising Race for the Prize. Following that with the gorgeous Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1 – sung from within the comforting cocoon of a giant inflatable droid – confirmed their intention to wring us dry with joy.
Coyne can’t sing, of course, but it doesn’t matter. Those beautifully fragile melodies were handed over to us, and we sang them with gusto.
Do, please, see this band before you expire.