The Flaming Lips @ Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom 15th August 2017
The Flaming Lips are, quite unashamedly, a number of things: uplifting, cheery, cheesy, psychedelic, pompous, theatrical, overblown, inspirational, celebratory, ludicrous and beautiful. There are undoubtedly a huge number of other adjectives I could use to grace them.
Experiencing them live is like entering a Nintendo game while on acid, to the soundtrack of a grunged-up 1960s psychedelic troupe. However, there is one exception: a dedication to keeping sight of those joyously vast beaming-smile tunes in lieu of any indulgent jamming.
Support with personality
The support band could never come close to the exuberance of their show, but boy, do they give it a damn valiant attempt. Happy Meals are a Glaswegian synth-pop duet whose arrangements evoke New Order and whose vocalist (Suzanne Rodden) sings partially in French. They make the most of the elaborate lighting displays setup for the main act, and Suzanne comes forward from the stage to greet the crowd at one point - even temporarily snatching a hat from an audience member. They have a likable disco vibe and tons of personality.
During the intermission, Lips frontman Wayne Coyne teases their appearance by stepping on stage in a fetching red outfit with a fur-ball black tail and shines a torch straight ahead. He gains a rapturous cheer before disappearing backstage again for a few minutes. When the band comes on in earnest, there’s yet another rapturous cheer.
Getting on with the show
As enjoyable as the music is, it’s not the main attraction of a live gig by the band. That’s the explosion of colour that takes place all around the audience - quite literally at the start as they are showered by volcanic ash levels of confetti throughout the opening song, along with many huge balloons. The lighting and video displays are covered with a diverse, never-ending succession of brightly-coloured patterns, clearly aimed at thrusting the audience into a nirvana-like state of bliss.
There are also plentiful inflatables and stage props utilized, including a huge inflatable pink robot (accompanying - obviously - the two-part Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots song) and a gong surrounding by circles which light up in myriad colours each time it is struck. Twice, Wayne Coyne enters the audience: once via a huge illuminating unicorn, and once via a giant inflatable hamster ball. The audience is always ready to reciprocate, wearing their brightest colours, holding up inflatable flowers, wearing unicorn horns and more.
Watch a video:
Not quite their most grandiose, but still great
The Flaming Lips are an invitingly colourful womb of bliss in which to stay. This show might not have been their very best due to the height limitations of the stage at the Barrowland Ballroom; having seen them in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall three years ago, I’ve seen the props they are capable of when given room, and last night they didn’t quite reach their most grandiose extent. However, even a logistically slightly curtailed version of their show is immeasurably more exuberant than most bands could dare to dream.