The most important show ever? Well – actually that’s just a “sacred obligation” between Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne and last night’s audience at The Camden Roundhouse, where the Lips played last night. Let me explain…
It had been a tough couple of days for The Flaming Lips. First, they postponed Monday’s Roundhouse gig, giving the intriguingly vague reason of “illness”. “What was the matter?” we wondered. Did the effects of dripping their own blood into their vinyl records finally come home to roost? Did Steve Drozd suffer another (ahem) “spider bite”? Or did they just listen to the all-encompassing bleakness of latest LP “The Terror” and suffer a fit of depression? (Actually the reason was clear from last night’s show: Coyne had a very bad cold).
Then, shortly after they postponed the gig came the news of the tornado that hit their home city of Oklahoma and the resulting loss of life. Suddenly Everything Has Changed.
In the midst of such worrying matters you could forgive The Flaming Lips for cancelling another show. It’s just music. Trivial… But music is also cathartic. And it has always had the power to bring people together when times are hard.
Wayne Coyne began last night’s show with a monologue to put the show into context. Resembling a rather fey and long haired Scott Tracey in an electric blue suit and standing on top of a rather futuristic space-octopus-strewn knoll in the middle of the stage he began by explaining how he had heard about the events in his hometown:
“Whenever you hear about some kids being trapped in a school you think “Oh jeez, how bad can it be?” (but) I think as it got later in the night here, we started to get word of how bad it really was. Being sick and all this (show) then starts to seem kind of petty and I don’t mean to demean this thing that we’re doing here at all, but sometimes things just happen in the world and it makes you realise in the best sense this isn’t that important.
“Music is important because it can get into you and be your friend: when you’re scared and you don’t know what will happen and you’re thinking about your child stuck under some rubble and wondering… music sometimes is the only thing you have. But when we do shows we realise that this is kind of a ridiculous event and it is not important. I would not want anybody to think that if anybody were involved, if one of our crew had somebody there that needed our help, we wouldn’t stop everything we were doing and help them.
“We’re very lucky. We absolutely love being here. This is what we dream to do – but when something like (the tornado) happens you realise this is just a silly show….
“But…since we’re here….. and this is what you do when you can’t do anything else…and as far as we can tell all hope that could be amassed in South Oklahoma city is there….
“We’ll all come back on, and we will say quietly that we know this is not important. But if anyone asks you afterwards, and heard the “Flaming Lips had to cancel a show? What’s that about?” You say “Dude, you missed the most important show the world has ever seen”.
And after that little speech – what else can you do but enjoy the show?
I was curious how the part ambient, part Krautrock, part sheer-crazy sounds of new album “The Terror” would translate live. I didn’t have long to wait: The Flaming Lips played almost every song from the new album, beginning with “Look…The Sun Is Rising”, and title track “The Terror”. These new songs came to life in a live setting, helped by a dynamic approach from the band, and drummer Kliph Scurlock in particular, and the odd sixty thousand watts of power. For those who like the sing-a-long stuff (and who doesn’t?) The Flaming Lips had a few tricks up their sleeves also, starting with “The W.A.N.D.” and digging out deeper Yoshimi cuts like “All We Have Is Now”. Even a couple of Embryonic tunes popped up in the two hour show.
Of the new material, “Try To Explain” stood out as one that might stay on the set list for many a tour – very powerful. Coyne meanwhile was battling with his voice. “I Can Do It!” he exclaimed before a slowed down version of “Race For The Prize” – another highlight of the set.
After a snippet from Zaireeka, Coyne succumbed to a coughing fit midway through “Do You Realise“. The crowd just raised their voices and sang for him. A still obviously ill Coyne appealed to our better natures, claiming that as he may not be the most technically brilliant singer even on a good day, we surely would be reasonably forgiving if he missed a few notes? Given he has never been the most acrobatic of vocalists, I didn’t hear anyone complain.
As the set closed with “Always There In Our Hearts” and (joy of joys) a confetti cannon, Coyne could consider – with tongue firmly in cheek – that he had fulfilled his “sacred obligation” that this show was “the most important show we had ever seen”. In the context of what else was going on in the world, it’s all nonsense, but last night it was just fine, guys…welcome back to the UK. And get well soon, Wayne.
Last night’s set list:
Look…The Sun Is Rising
Virgo Self-Esteem Broadcast
Silver Trembling Hands
Try to Explain
Race for the Prize
Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die
One More Robot / Sympathy 3000-21
Riding to Work in the Year 2025 (You’re Invisible Now)
Do You Realize??
All We Have Is Now
Always There, In Our Hearts
Record #193: The Flaming Lips – Always There, In Our Hearts