“I don’t really like gimmicks,” says Wayne Coyne, to hearty guffaws from both audience and band. He has, after all, just spent three minutes firing off a series of confetti cannons from between the thighs of four 20-foot high inflatable pink robots. But compared to some Flaming Lips shows of recent times, when it became hard to discern the presence of an actual band amid a tsunami of glitter and balloons resembling a spoilt Trump scion’s fifth birthday party, this is a relatively straightforward rendering of their classic 2002 album Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, in celebration of its recent 20th anniversary.
Once the roadies have deflated the giant robots (a somewhat unflattering process), the strength of the Yoshimi… material shines through. It’s a pleasure to hear lesser-played songs such as “It’s Summertime” and “All We Have Is Now” beaming down their warm rays of philosophical consolation.
Despite being two decades old, “One More Robot” seems to have something worthwhile to say about our current AI conundrum. And there’s a first-ever live airing for the Grammy-winning instrumental “Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)”, Coyne enthusiastically miming the trumpet fanfare. Conversely, while “Do You Realize??” has been overplayed to the point where you might assume it would feel sickly and trite, it still hits home.
After an interval, the Lips return for what should be a triumphant romp through the greatest hits. But it’s a stop-start affair, with interminable gaps betweens songs as Coyne introduces a remote-controlled bird, or changes into what looks like a superhero dog onesie. Perhaps it’s finally time to ditch these remaining gimmicks. With Steven Drozd conducting a five-piece band including twin drummers in matching wigs, the songs sound great by themselves: “Waitin’ For A Superman” and “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton” are poignant and rousing, while “She Don’t Use Jelly” is joyously daft and raucous in a way they ought to revisit more often.
This is the first time they’ve attempted one of these dual-set concerts, so you hope it’ll be slicker at Hammersmith Apollo on Friday. But for all Yoshimi…’s sci-fi comic book conceptualism, its songs connect here not because of the giant inflatable robots, but because they are achingly human. That has to be the way forward.
One More Robot
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 2
In The Morning Of The Magicians
Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell
Are You A Hypnotist??
Do You Realize??
All We Have Is Now
Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)
My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion
She Don’t Use Jelly
Silver Trembling Hands
Enthusiasm For Life Defeats Existential Fear
Waitin’ For A Superman
Assassins Of Youth
Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung
Feeling Yourself Disintegrate
A Spoonful Weighs A Ton
Race For The Prize