Thursday, 29 July 2010

405 MERCURY REV, THE FLAMING LIPS, Oxford Brookes University, Thursday 6 May 1999

2 gigs in 2 days, yeah, but this one was not to be missed! Road works in Oxford city centre delayed matters further, but we hit the Uni campus in good time. Let's face it, I would have got out and ran to get to this one!

Got into the nice venue at 8, to see head Flaming Lip Wayne Coyne dashing around in front of the stage making last-minute checks before the "test" audio-visual loop and the haunting soundcheck song. They re-emerged at 8.15 to the expectant (me) and curious (everyone else), and kicked off another bizarre, brilliant set with "Race For The Prize", a wondrously, other-worldly sounding yet utterly catchy number, an early lock for Single Of The Year! The same gongs, tape loops, stunning visuals and odd hand puppets were again in evidence, but the songs, on second listen, sound even better. This band, from Oklahoma City in the middle of USA's "Tornado Alley", are pushing the envelope harder than any other band currently operating, and are producing some quite other-worldly and awesome music in the process. My one-word conversation with Wayne Coyne afterwards (as he took the gong frame down with a vicious looking set of pliers) confirmed this; "extraordinary!"

Taking their old mates The Flaming Lips with them, in their current incarnation and utterly inspired form, is either a decision of extreme foolhardiness, or an expression of supreme confidence in your own abilities and new-found status. For the Rev, tonight, thankfully it proved the latter, as they were once again magnificent. A more conventional sound and line-up than The Lips (but hey, that'd be everyone then) The Rev's set nevertheless occupied the same other-worldly territory; sweeping, majestic and heavenly. "Frittering", 3rd number in, lasted over 10 minutes and could have gone on forever, as far as I was concerned! Live, their songs take on an added dynamism, and vocalist Jonathan Donahue is a riveting and effortlessly cool frontman for this band of sunglasses-clad musical heroes. Mercury Rev manage to sound as if they're rediscovering their American rock roots, yet soaring forwards and upwards to the heavens and infinity at the same time. A brilliant double-header!

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