My main knowledge of The Flaming Lips comes from a couple of albums released about a decade ago. They seemed quite sweet, though occasionally slight, collections about scientists and killer robots – not sure if such a category exists but let’s call it Geek Pop. Their show at the Dome last night showed that this was just one of many styles they embrace, from heavy psychedelic rock to glam rock to folk to krautrock, the group are certainly in no danger of getting stuck into any generic rut.
Visually the show is faultless. Wayne Coyne spends most of it on what looks like coiled alien entrails which act as conduits for hundreds of travelling lights. A huge video screen shows incredibly colourful, complex visuals for which no other word but ‘trippy’ will suffice. Coyne himself seems quite amiable but his talking to the audience is pretty grim. It’s either just dull, or occasionally he gets a vague idea into his head but instead of running with it he tries to make it work for about a minute, then mumblingy goes back to talking about having a cold. Occasionally the gig is a bit like watching the world’s worst stand up.
But musically the Lips are great: the heavy stuff is suitably bombastic, the crowd-pleasing Race for the Prize thrills the audience and there’s a decent cover of Bowie’s Heroes. Early on they play material from their new ‘difficult’ album, The Terror which – after few listens on Spotify – I think might be their best work yet. Anything which sees them gets them away from their slight tendency towards whimsicality towards something closer to Radiohead can only be for the best.