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Flaming Lips at Palace Theatre 17/11/2011

Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on November 23, 2011

Trippin’ balls, ‘cirque du psychedelia’ and dangerous to epileptics are all phrases that could have described Thursday night’s Flaming Lips extravaganza at Melbourne’s Palace Theatre but the most accurate description that comes to mind is joyful. The Oklahoma City five-piece aim to create their own unique world of space rock utopia at their concerts and this performance was no exception.

Their trademark supersized balloons, rainbow-coloured ticker tape and kaleidoscopic light shows were all on display, dazzling and distracting the adoring Melbourne crowd. But the most ecstatic roar was saved for frontman Wayne Coyne floating over the audience in a giant plastic orb, literally being propelled by the energy of the crowd.

This gig was less an ordered sequence of songs than a sprawling wave of acid-tinged grooves punctuated by psychedelic pieces of pop candy such as breakthrough hit ‘She don’t use jelly’, ‘Yoshimi battles the pink robots’ and ‘The yeah yeah yeah song’. The band eschewed any attempt to reproduce exact renditions of Flaming Lips favourites, instead showcasing Coyne’s distinct voice with sparser instrument arrangements and adjusting song structures according to the spontaneity of the moment.

Coyne, who at age 50 shows no sign of slowing down, expertly marshalled the crowd like a circus ringmaster, deftly exploding confetti-filled balloons mid-guitar strum and firing streams of ticker tape like a 21-gun salute into the audience. Flaming Lips have been playing together for almost 30 years and have deservedly earned a reputation for creating a live show like no other. The video backdrop featured the sort of hyper-coloured naked dancing women indelibly linked to LSD hallucinations and prompted Coyne to warn those sensitive to bright flashing lights to avert their eyes in a sort of pre-show safety induction.

By the end of the two-hour set the Lips had created a palpable sense of carefree abandon which the arena-like setting of the Palace Theatre only heightened. The euphoric closer ‘Do you realize?’ capped a truly memorable concert. Friends had recommended the band as one of the best live experiences I would ever see and I was not disappointed.

The summer of love may have ended 40-odd years ago but for the Flaming Lips the dream lives on.

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