At the end of this month The Flaming Lips will mark 20 years since The Soft Bulletin turned them from low-selling weirdos with wild ideas to culturally significant, better-selling weirdos with wild ideas with an Australian tour including two nights at the Sydney Opera House.
While there’s been some mixed results in recent years, most of the first decade of this century saw the Oklahoma band play some of the most spirit-lifting, communal-love-in, ultra-enjoyable shows you’re ever likely to experience.
As this Wind Back Wednesday trip shows, summer nights in 2004 was peak Lips.
Can they reclaim, recreate or at least remind us of this at the Opera House? We can only hope.
THE FLAMING LIPS
Enmore Theatre, January 25
The oddest thing isn’t the fact that on either side of the stage is a blow-up sun perched on wobbly legs surrounded by people in furry animal costumes dancing, waving their hands in the air and looking ready to hug anyone coming near.
Nor is it that three of the band members also are dressed as animals (if you’re wondering: an elephant, a panda and a zebra; and a tech who operates the occasional machine is dressed as a lion) while the lead singer wears a cream linen suit and the kind of grey-flecked hair and beard that sighs ‘casually elegant artist’.
It’s not even that dozens of big balloons, supplied by the band, are bouncing up and down across the audience and glittery confetti is being thrown over the front rows so that you begin to look out for the party pies and fairy bread and nod with recognition when the singer says: “It could be a birthday party for some rich six year old whose parents do drugs”.
No, what is particularly odd is that we are revelling in it.
We’re bouncing the balloons back and forth and cheering fit to raise the roof when a giant one makes it to the balcony. We’re raising our hands in the air and joining in with a finger puppet nun to sing the chorus of a song about a Japanese girl “with a black belt in karate” who fights the robots on our behalf.
Take a look around and we’re all wearing the kind of goofy grins that come on when you’re too busy being happy to worry about looking sophisticated and above it all. The kind of grin people take little pills to achieve.
The Flaming Lips will do that to you.
They will sing you songs about deep pain and confronting the option of suicide; about the life cycle of insects; about scientists who are “just humans with wives and children …racing for the good of all mankind”.
They’ll mix footage of death and aerobics with Christian TV-like cheesiness and fake blood dripping down a face.
They’ll be whimsically light and then perform the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army as if Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad had gone blues.
For these two hours they’ll have you feeling bloody good about your life.
Of course that’s odd but who knows, maybe you too will walk away singing “do you realize that you have the most beautiful face” and smiling to yourself.
The Flaming Lips play Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane, September 28; Sydney Opera House on September 30 and October 1; Arts Centre, Melbourne, October 3-4.