MUSIC – The Flaming Lips at Usher Hall

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WHEN it comes to party planning, The Flaming Lips surely have it nailed.

The Flaming Lips celebrated the 20th anniversary of their album on the 8th of September, Photo: George Salisbury

For the last four decades they have relied on more than a few strings of tinsel to harness their eccentricities on the road.

And smoke, mirror-balls, confetti, neon unicorns and inflatable pink robots traveled as well as their musical prowess for an epic, kaleidoscopic celebration of their seminal album The Soft Bulletin at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall.

Oklahoma City’s prodigal son, Wayne Coyne, and band mates, descended like fancy-dress aliens from a retro cosmic star-ship and lit-up a school-night audience with their weird brand of glee.

Marking the 20th anniversary of the award-winning album with a tour kicking-off in the Scottish capital, they showcase the album from start to mind-blowing finish.

With a couple of crowd-pleasing giants on hold for the phenomenal finale – they are confident and aware from the go-get that this will be a winner.

After all, this is the venue where they first felt supported in their shift from raw post-punk to something lighter, brighter and poppier.

They are met with delight bordering on ecstasy from faithful disciples wondering at the spectacle.

Flaming Lips press photo
Wayne Coyne and his band mates kicked off their anniversary tour at Usher Hall, Photo: George Salisbury

After a space-age intro with Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra- the LED netting backdrop behind them sparkling like the firmament, they take off.

Ramping up their gaudy rituals with the euphoric Race for the Prize, the audience are prepped for musical pantomime as streamers shoot through the air and glittering confetti blizzards the arena.

It’s time to regress to childhood in the best possible way and explore the power of play through Coyne’s fragile vocals and bitter-sweet redemptive lyrics which are both magical and bold.

Universal questions about love, the joys and frailties of life, and the spectre of death are broached through a surreal lens and rinsed in a solution of hope.

It’s infectious like a religious experience where everyone is saved as the revered album holds onto its legendary status.

Honesty, devotion, friendship, happiness and darker reflections release through genius lyrics that rear above the test of time.

In The Spiderbite’s ‘coz if it destroyed you, it would destroy me,’ Coyne references his love for his band mates whilst A Spoonful Weighs a Ton, brings in beautiful imaginings, ‘being drunk on their plan they lifted up the sun.’

Tickets for the Edinburgh gig were between £25 – £45, Photo: George Salisbury

‘Waiting for Superman’ spirals into sadness but Coyne urges us not to stay there long.  Drums crash, guitars jangle and riff, pianos serenade and electrical distortions skew sounds. 

All supported by sunny vocals or ethereal harmonies. A darn near perfection exudes from this slick performance that no-one really wants to end.

“F*** Yeah Edinburgh” are sentiments extolled not only through the existential lyrics but via a silver helium balloon fashioned in those words, later ripped apart by the audience.

Coyne, who has the look of a suited and booted weir wolf tonight, is as hyped as a kid rising at 5am for Santa before he has even one foot down the chimney.

He takes to gliding through the crowd  astride a unicorn like a transcendental heavenly being with rainbow wings and later rolls across them in a giant beach ball feeling the love.
Buzzing with the enthusiasm that has charged the award-winning psychedelic troubadours through the critical ups and downs of almost four decades they power forth.

Coyne, at 57 is a glass half-full type whose energy is barely diminished. He pulls us in with only a few somber lyrics but urges us not to dwell on sadness and negativity.
The music is freaky, enchanting and timeless and the theatricals barmy and fun though my friend found the them a little jarring.

As the beloved pink robot of Yoshimi fame rises before the little people of Edinburgh an air of peace prevails.

How to sum this all up? I’ll take a sentence, one of theirs: “The sound they made was love.”

For making music and being on the planet to transmit it to others.

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