The Flaming Lips at Hammersmith Apollo
The Flaming Lips’ latest tour ostensibly celebrates an album released 21 years ago. Yet, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, played in full as the mainstay of their show at the Hammersmith Apollo, feels oddly contemporary.
Its psychedelic fusion of rock and pop has influenced a new generation, most notably Tame Impala, while frontman and impresario Wayne Coyne is so in demand that he can count Miley Cyrus as a collaborator. Its themes of optimism amid alienation from a world increasingly run by machines could not be more relevant as society now looks warily at the prospect of Artificial Intelligence.
The album and show’s Cat Stevens-inspired opener, Fight Test, sets the tone, one that possesses an element of wistful regret but also joy. Visually, Coyne takes to his now-famous performing bubble, hinting at more stagecraft to come.
It’s with the third and first part of the title track that things truly kick into gear on that front. Not least as the giant inflatable pink robots, which were merely stage detritus until then, rise and provide Coyne with an epic backdrop. An eclectic and colourful crowd joins them, rising to the occasion themselves and transforming a packed Hammersmith Apollo into a pit of joy and appreciation that continues through the second, funky, instrumental part of the title track.
In the Morning of the Magicians is also a lesser-known standout. However, it’s the record’s one true mainstream hit, Do You Realize??, that is perhaps the pinnacle of the gig. Upon its release, the song introduced The Flaming Lips to a wider audience, or at least to those who saw it on MTV2’s frequent airplay. Now it sounds like a hymnal reminder for everyone to appreciate life’s good times and those they love. Because before they know it, 20 years have passed, and they will be clinging to memories – or recapturing some by seeing one of alternative rock’s psychedelic elder statesmen relive past glories.
After running through Yoshimi, Coyne and his band return for a second set featuring the group’s other signature tracks, most notably 1993’s She Don’t Use Jelly – the song that cemented them as a flowery alternative to grunge for alternative rock fans.
The second set feels like something of an afterthought compared to what’s come before, but that’s fine. The run-through of Yoshimi provides enough joy to make it a spectacular night. A secondary nod to The Flaming Lips’ wider oeuvre is a pleasant bonus.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit The Flaming Lips’s website here.
Watch the video for Do You Realize?? here:
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