Hamer Hall, Melbourne
I first saw The Lips in Sydney 15 years ago at a stand-up gig in a smallish theatre. They showcased Yoshimi and the Pink Robots. Lots of colour, beach balls, streamers and band members in animal suits. It was a lot of fun.
Fast forward they are doing one of those anniversary tours. Soft Bulletin is being showcased. This time I am in Melbourne and it is at a plush concert hall. But the show is pretty similar only more so. Masses of streamers and beach balls hersald Race For The Prize and a massive rig of thin lighting strips provide an endless array of colour effects. Grateful Dead eat your heart out. Wayne Coyne has a frail “half voice”. He sings entirely falsetto though I’ve heard some of their earlier proto punk stuff and his voice is lower on those. It must be hard work. His voice is undermixed. This is surprising given it is night 2 in thois concert hall. Perhaps it is deliberate. 3 guitars with 2 also playing keys/synths, bass and 2 drummer plus Coyne. They do well at reproducing the multi layered studio album Soft Bulletin.
The encore are some greatest hits from Yoshimi with a massive inflatable pink robot as backdrop. Surprisingly, the new album King’s Mouth is not represented. in many ways it is quite similar to the synth heavy child like story of Yoshimi. Perhaps Mick Jones’s spoken bits were too critical. Who knows. The one non Lips song is the highlight .They play True Love Will Find You In The End, a touching plaintive song by Daniel Johnston the guy blighted by mental illness who worked in Maccas for 30 years and used to put his home recorded cassettes in peoples Maccas bag. Instead of guitar Steve accompanies on electric piano and it is rivetting. I can’t tell you a lot about the actual playing. Cue the conundrum.
From the get go Coyne has us standing up and cheering wildly. He states he doesn’t want silence between songs as that gap makes him nervous it is only brief but for him “it feels like 10 minutes” .So between every song lots of cheering and whooping. Not polite clapping, not “clap along with this one” just general hubbub. This went on all night and when it eased off we were revved up again.
It got tiring and a few times I plonked down in my seat, trading a view for a brief rest. So with all this standing, whooping, streamers, beach balls hitting you on the head etc the whole notion of a musical performance where you sat listened and soaked it all in was out the window.
Now, call me a curmudgeon, but ordinarily whenever a band comes on and says “come on everybody, clap your hands”, I’m a bit “fuck you I will do it when I want”.And there was a bit of that heard on the way out. We overheard one woman” instead of telling us to get excited, just play the fucking music and let us get excited ourselves”. But would we have? The Lips want it to be a party, I guess all those streamers, beach balls and other inflatables are gonna be a bit odd with people sitting down politely tapping their feet.
So, in the case of the Flaming Lips I’ll say, ok you can make me standup and whoop and holler all night.
Very diverse. Even balance of genders, plenty of colourful outfits, a lot of nerdy types
It made me think..
This sort of gig should be at a standup up venue where you can wander over to the bar, wander back, drift in and out of the party.