The Flaming Lips


By virtue of where I live, my trip to the Apollo this evening takes me past Manchester Arena. Swarming around the arena are many excited young faces. Often the popularity of pop groups irks me a little, but this evening I’m pleased. It was Little Mix that were to be playing at the Apollo tonight, so in some way, by upgrading to the arena I have them to thank for tonight’s festivities. In another, far more meaningful way, The Flaming Lips are deserving of my gratitude.

Support this evening comes from Young Knives. With four full-length albums under their belt already, a mere 30 minute set makes predicting the Young Knives setlist difficult. Even given unlimited guesses I’d never have come up with the setlist the band selected. Bass player Thomas Dartnall, also known as “The House Of Lords”, walks out onto stage wearing a large papier-mâché head. The first track of the set ‘12345’ plays out as the rest of the band appear and the head is removed.

Still without bass in hand, during the first live track of the night ‘Owls Of Athens’, a large metal sheet and a golf club replace bass guitar. ‘We Could Be Blood’ is next, and this time instead of bass a rig full of electronic equipment features. So that’s three tracks down, the first three from latest album Sick Octave. Still I’m surprised the next two tracks are the fourth and fifth from the latest album’s listing, ‘All Tied Up’ and ‘White Sands’. As ‘White Sands’ nears an end, a bemused crowd witness a screaming Henry Dartnall letting us know he “took a hundred of these”.

The band now address the audience for the first time. Frontman Henry Dartnall introduces the night’s first track not taken from the latest album. ‘The Decision’, from 2006 album ‘Voices of Animals and Men’ still manages to sound a lot like the new material. Returning to ‘Sick Octave’, though not before accusing the crowd of not knowing who they are, ‘Green Island Red Raw’ and finally ‘Something Awful’ bring the set to a close.

I had arrived at the venue looking forward to Young Knives. The live performances I’ve seen from them have always been entertaining in the past, but this evening it was all a bit too serious. I know it’s unfair to expect a band to only play crowd pleasing songs, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect one or two.

Ten minutes before the scheduled start time, The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne gets his first cheer of the night. His appearance is brief as he carries some of his elaborate props onto the stage. Five minutes later there he is again, to another cheer. He appears and leaves again once more before the band enter the stage, accompanied by two giant caterpillars and a giant sun.


The Flaming Lips

“This is only the second time we’ve played this song in 20 years” announces Coyne before opening the show with ‘The Abandoned Hospital Ship’, taken from 1995 album Clouds Taste Metallic. Showing an animated rainbow, the huge screen behind the band is almost blindingly bright.

This is still the first track and before it is over the sky fills up with silver confetti. Dancing giant caterpillars and showering the crowd with confetti seems more like a second half thing to me. The Flaming Lips just don’t care about these rules. The giant sun gets a hug from Coyne before it and the caterpillars are sent from the stage and the band plays a shortened version of Stone Roses song ‘I Wanna Be Adored’.

The atmosphere changes the moment the first few notes of the next song emerge from the speakers. ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’, the band’s first hit single back in 1993, noticeably raises the mood and injects some energy into the crowd. Followed by ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part One’, with some giant dancing aliens and a dancing star, spirits stay high.

‘In the Morning of the Magicians’ is next up, before another set of giants enter the stage. This time it’s a pair of aliens covered in glittery tinsel outfits. Once they settle into position “Oh Oh Oh” flashes up on the screen and the band burst into 2009 single ‘Watching The Planets’. Two tracks from 1999’s The Soft Bulletin come next. ‘Feeling Yourself Disintegrate’ is first before a ripple of excitement greets the start of that album’s first single ‘Race for the Prize’.

As if worried we were becoming bored with giant dancing creatures, Coyne now runs off stage. The middle of the backdrop is taken away and an enormous flashing cube is wheeled out. The band start playing ‘Look…The Sun Is Rising’ and after climbing aboard the cube, Coyne sings it and the following two songs ‘The W.A.N.D.’ and ‘Try to Explain’ standing atop.

Disappearing to raise the level of theatre once again, Coyne returns with a structure made of silver balloons. He flaps the structure like a pair of wings while the band plays ‘Virgo Self-Esteem Broadcast’. He throws it into the crowd, where it soon breaks up into individual balloons. The crowd continue to bat those balloons around for most of the rest of the show.

‘Silver Trembling Hands’ and ‘A Spoonful Weighs a Ton’ close the set and the band leave with the word “Love” flashing on the giant screen behind them. Two encores are yet to come. The first features ‘Do You Realize?’ and the second a cover of The Beatles song ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’. The latter featuring another outpouring of silver confetti. I have no idea how much this silver confetti costs, but I hope they’ve got themselves a good bulk deal, they use a lot of it.

The theatrical nature of the performance was pleasing tonight. Though my favourite track was ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’, despite that being one of the few tracks that didn’t have an additional theatrical component. I guess that all means there’s no substitute for good quality songs, luckily for The Flaming Lips they have those too.

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Adam Smith

Silent Radio Editor-in-chief. Watching excellently crafted live music is one of the great pleasures I get to enjoy. Having too often seen excellent bands fail to garner the attention I believe they deserve, I'm here to spread the good word of the under-appreciated musical performer. I encourage everyone who is reading this to do the same. Get in touch if you'd like to do that here.