The Flaming Lips, Jodrell Bank, Cheshire
Wednesday 13 July 2011
Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics is home of the Lovell telescope, one of the largest and most powerful radio telescopes for "investigating cosmic phenomena" in the world. The Flaming Lips are an American psychedelic rock band who put on a seriously cosmic show. As frontman Wayne Coyne announces: "This is our place".
They headline a day of music that includes sets from OK Go and British Sea Power. My favourite moment though is when one of the centre's scientists plays us some recorded radio waves: there's the hiss from a planet that exploded in 1670, the throbbing beat of a spinning star collapsing in 1967, or the syncopated rhythm of a supernova.
The Flaming Lips are also clearly psyched by this impressive backdrop, as the telescope's enormous white bowl locks into place above the stage. "People say man is fucking everything up, but here we stand with this amazing thing made by man," suggests Coyne. "I think this is the greatest place to be on planet earth right now."
They quickly sweep the crowd up into their trippy universe, playing sing-along favourites like "She Don't Use Jelly" and "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song", alongside assorted musical noodling. Rainbows feature heavily: in projections, multicoloured confetti shot from rainbow-emblazoned cannons and bright balloons drifting over the crowd by the dozen. At the side of the stage, somewhere over the rainbow, dance multiple casts of The Wizard of Oz. These dressed-up Dorothies and Tin Men are definitively not in Kansas any more.
Towards the end, Coyne directs us to look at the telescope which suddenly lights up with video projections, including footage of Dr Lovell himself. It's an exciting moment, but I couldn't help wondering why they didn't make more use of it throughout the show.
They finish with, of course, their joyously anthemic track "Do You Realise??". Coyne teases the crowd with his "c'mon, c'mon, c'mon" encouragement – not that we really need it. With lights and lasers and confetti, Coyne's enigmatic presence, the song's soaring melody and apt lyrics – "Do you realise, we're floating in space? Do you realise, that happiness makes you cry?" – not to mention the fitting setting, The Flaming Lips succeed in making us feel like we really are in the greatest place on the planet.
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