Friday, 16 July 2010

440 THE FLAMING LIPS, Built To Spill, Wheat, London Royal Festival Hall, Friday 12 May 2000

Two gigs in one evening! Rachel and I had just seen Seafood play an acoustic set in Borders bookshop in Oxford Street, and we then tubed it over to Embankment and crossed the Thames Bridge, passing Michael Palin (!) on the way. Into the Festival Hall, a rather grand (and huge!) venue, accompanied by tannoy pips denoting the 5 minute warning. So we took our seats in the auditorium at 7.30, just as Wheat took the stage. Despite the half full hall, they played a blinder. The sound was note-perfect, and these Boston boys totally did it justice, with a strong and passionate performance of their deliciously slow-burning and haunting mood music. They "rocked out" as much as their slow-fi material allowed, with the final crescendo to new single - and candidate for Top Single of 2000 - "Raised Ranch Revolution", a particularly absorbing highlight. Some banter with the crowd, in which I, of course, participated (!), also highlighted a superb performance. If they sound this good in large venues, then Wheat really should be playing them all the time!

Hit the bar during the interval, meeting up with travelling evening gig-goers Dave, Ady and Peej. Rachel got the drinks in - which took 25 minutes and created some frayed nerves! - while we chatted and also bumped into Ady's old Uni mates Keiron and Alison. Popped into the hall for the last 3 numbers of Built To Spill's set. Odd for this seated venue, they actually had a merry moshpit, which all but absorbed our stage-right seats, 4 rows back. BTS are a highly respected US "Alternative" rock act, but, like Guided By Voices, their forced cleverness and cerebral approach, at the expense of good tunes played with some passion, left me cold. In fact, their best number was a lumbering grungified version of "Mr. Crowley", an old HM song by Black Sabbath... or Hawkwind... or Led Zep... or some such... Back to the bar then, failing to bump into the Wheat guys, having spoken to guitarist Ricky at the end of their set and offered to buy him a drink. No such luck - I guess Rachel and I will have to gatecrash his party in Boston next Friday!

Took our seats again for the Flaming Lips set at 9.30. This time, however, there was no on-stage soundcheck, just psychedelic circles projected onto the by-now familiar screen to placate the restless crowd. The 3 Lips took the stage at 9.45 and burst straight into "Race For The Prize", last year's No. 1 Single by miles, and as usual rendered even more epic and other-worldly "live", with Leonard Bernstein conducting the apocalypse as visual accompaniment. Peej turned to me at the end of it and said, "that was one of the greatest things I've ever seen!" I can understand; this is my 9th time of seeing The Flaming Lips; my 5th with this set-up, and it awes me every time. This time, slightly rejigged films accompanied the moody yet magnificent set staples such as "Riding To Work In The Year 2025" and "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate", which itself fair brought a lump to the old throatie.

Wayne then captured the celebratory mood of the evening with a preamble about Record Label City Slang's 10th anniversary, prior to flooding the moshpit with balloons during the ludicrously happy "She Don't Use Jelly". The usual features - the gong, the glove puppet, Wayne-as-confetti poster boy for the new Millennium - were in evidence, and the night was overall yet another Magical Mystery Tour courtesy of The Flaming Lips!

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