Review: Flaming Lips bring The Soft Bulletin 'home' to Edinburgh's Usher Hall
THIS was a special show at a special venue. Marking the 20th anniversary of the band's iconic album The Soft Bulletin, it was appropriate that the Usher Hall hosted the occasion.
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USHER HALL, Lothian Road
The album was something of a breakthrough for the Oklahoma City group. It was a major junction on their journey which had previously gone from guitar-based post-punk through to psychedelic sci-fi with all manner of experiments - and just one minor hit, She Don’t Use Jelly (who says you can’t rhyme orange) - along the way.
The band have acknowledged that it was a gig at the Usher Hall after the album's release when they really felt the fans were starting to "get" the new direction - including a more complex, layered, lush, occasionally almost orchestral, style of production.
The soaring songs - both uplifting and harrowing - were the finest work of writers Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd up to that point.
So how to go about celebrating such a landmark for the band?
Instead of launching straight into the crowd-pleasing opening track Race For The Prize, the intro was Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra with the LED netting stage backdrop appearing to perform at front man Coyne's will. The LED show was spectacular throughout as each track from the album was meticulously performed, some, it has to be said more for the hardcore fans than others.
Coyne is an irresistible showman and never shy to whip up his own applause but that only ads to the atmosphere.
All the tricks were on show - confetti cannons, Coyne crowd-surfing in a blow-up hamster-ball and a huge glitter-ball - but the main attraction was the power of the songs.
After the album tracks were exhausted, the two encores provided a near-perfect conclusion. First, There Should Be Unicorns saw Coyne wheeled through the adoring crowd aboard a neon unicorn and wearing a pair of blow up rainbow wings held together with gaffer tape. Then accompanied by an giant inflatable pink robot the singalong crow pleaser Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt 1.
Finally, a second encore of the band's anthem Do You Realize?? before he audience was released smiling into the early autumn night.
The tagline for these shows is: "All humans are urged to attend". And everyone should try to see the Flaming Lips at least once.
Theirs gigs can feel like a communion of like-minded souls and, when they sing together, the sound they make is love.