Flaming Lips – BIC, Bournemouth

Isn’t it horrible when a band you view as your own personal property starts getting popular and you have to go and see them in barn-like conference centres? But the Flaming Lips, bless them, have been at it so bloody long and are just so plain loveable that you can forgive them and magnanimously allow other people to benefit from the rays of pure sunshine they emit.
The Flaming Lips are one of the few bands one can dare to call “unique”, which is probably why the audience ranged from 16 to 60, all curious to put a finger on that mysterious x-factor which makes them so special. Is it the understated but staggering virtuosity of Steven Drodz? Is it the incongruousness of Michael Ivans, who manages to convey the air of a university professor despite being dressed as a snow leopard? Or is it the fact that Wayne Coyne is the man you would most like to go to the pub with? It certainly isn’t all those furry animals, although they are part of the fun. Oh heck, all right then, it’s the glorious music.
No band has ever created a bigger knockout punch of a set opener than “Race For The Prize”. It ensures that the audience experiences an almighty adrenaline rush from the first instant, which is then miraculously sustained for the next one and a half hours. Me, I had other worries, because this was my first ever experience of a photographers’ pit, and being covered in confetti, splashed with fake blood and smashed in the face with huge rubber balls was quite a challenging initiation. The feeling? The purest, purest joy.
With the shoulders of his crumpled suit resembling a cricketer’s crotch after the new ball has been taken (they obviously don’t take a dry cleaner on tour), Wayne introduced the BIC audience to the art of community singing in a venue which presumably normally only sings along to “Things Can Only Get Better”. The song was “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots”, but soon it was “Happy Birthday” and, oh joy, “She Don’t Use Jelly”, during which Coyne’s latest madness entails blowing a gigantic balloon until it bursts, showering the audience with yet more debris. As the giant mirror balls spin into action for the finale of “Do You Realise?”, we find ourselves involved in a singalong chorus of “everyone some day will die” (honest). And on that theme, it is a measure of Coyne’s communication skill that, amongst all the mayhem, he still commanded an emotion-filled silence for a charmingly cogent anti-war speech and a moving dedication of “Waiting For Superman” to Elliott Smith.
This is one band that you can’t ever imagine letting you down. Why, they even still set up their own gear. “Thanks, everybody!”.