Wayne Coyne. Pic: George Salisbury

Festivals, Music, Reviews

The Flaming Lips Review (Melbourne International Arts Festival)

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The Flaming Lips are tagged as a band to see before you die, and their Hamer Hall performance proved they have no intention of letting that title go.

Amid giant balloons, confetti cannons and a “Fuck Yeah Melbourne” inflatable sign, they launched us straight into their glorious psychedelic adult wonderland complete with rainbow lights and seemingly never-ending stimulation.

It’s been 20 years since they released The Soft Bulletin, their breakthrough record after years of musical experimentation and changing band members. Performing the album from start to finish, frontman Wayne Coyne pulled out every trick to keep the crowd energised.

Hamer Hall instantly felt like a weird venue, particularly for a rock band known for their wild live shows. As soon as they opened with Race for the Prize, the audience slowly stood up from their formal velvet chairs (Mexican wave-style), politely manoeuvred past each other, and spilled down the aisles to get closer to the action.

This was not a show to sit down for. In fact, Coyne urged his fans to yell out when things felt too quiet or sombre.

“Screaming fills up our souls,” he encouraged. “When we’re on stage, it feels like 10 minutes go by.

“We’re never going to stop being introverted scared dorks,” he added.

This was not a show to sit down for. In fact, Coyne urged his fans to yell out when things felt too quiet or sombre.

The seven-piece group had us buzzing like insects at one point. Coyne mused about how the world is full of people who point out what’s “fucked about this world” and that we should point out how beautiful it is as well, in reference to “how fucking cool insects are”.

While he was making a sincere comment about appreciating the beauty in the small things, it was a line that appeared flippant, particularly in the midst of a global climate crisis.

The Flaming Lips made it clear that they still love being on stage, and Coyne would slowly raise his arms to re-engage the crowd, a move that at first felt genuine but later seemed tired.

The 1999 album is full of lush orchestration, warm melodies, alternating paces and at times, heavy subject matter. Though I realise Coyne didn’t want to lower the mood he had worked so hard to maintain, when Waitin’ for a Superman played, I didn’t want to cheer. I simply wanted to sit down, take a moment to soak it all in, and let myself feel sad.

After a moving rendition of the late Daniel Johnston’s True Love Will Find You In The End, things picked up. They inflated a towering pink robot during Yoshimi Battles the Pink RobotsPt. 1 and the audience karate chopped in unison. A gong was wheeled out and sunburst light effects had us all hypnotised. Coyne also introduced us to Christian and Rachel, a couple who are now engaged after an epic on-stage proposal.

The Flaming Lips was a visual feast of twinkling lights and colours, airborne adult toys and pure unadulterated joy. Though the record and show were tinged with sadness, it got heavy in the best way.

The Flaming Lips played as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival October 3 – 4.

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