The Flaming Lips

Kev Eddy 23/04/2006

The Royal Albert Hall is an amazing venue. Just walking out into the 'arena' (more commonly known as the orchestra pit) as a spectator instils a sense of absolute awe. What must it be like for the performers? How can you make your mark on this place?

If there's a band who'll do it in a unique way, it's the Flaming Lips. Never a band to shirk away from theatricality, they take the stage (after being announced by a town crier, of course) flanked with the familiar armies of Santas and aliens, as Wayne Coyne bounces off the heads of the crowd in a giant inflatable sphere. The music echoes around the hall, almost irrelevant to the spectacle - a spectacle only increased with the advent of giant white balloons. Around fifty of them. All over the audience. It's like a children's party, and the Flaming Lips are the slightly crazed entertainers.

Amid the balloons and stage props and streamers and visuals, the music almost seems ancillary to the event. And a band with less pedigree, or a less complete grasp of psychedelic melody, would probably be overwhelmed by the venue. However, the Lips keep it together beautifully, tracks from their new album At War with the Mystics mingling happily with songs from their previous efforts, with the bulk of material coming from their previous album Yoshimi… Still, they're not perfect. They find themselves all but upstaged by a blue balloon reaching the very top of the back of the Royal Albert Hall (cue a joyful audience immediately all looking away from the stage), and the sheer number of stimuli is overwhelming in itself, meaning that by the time fake blood is pouring down Coyne's face, it's close to too much. This reviewer also suspects that it doesn't necessarily benefit from repeat viewings, as the surprise factor is an integral part of the effect of their show.

Even so, there's no doubting their enthusiasm, and a staccato encore of 'War Pigs' brings the set to a fitting and surprisingly animated end. After all, as Coyne remarked earlier in the evening, 'Enthusiasm can change the world…' It may be an overly hopeful sentiment, but definitely one that you can go away from this gig believing - for a while at least.