The Flamings Lips at the O2 Forum Kentish Town 2.6.2022 supported by the Heartless Bastards

Here at the O2 Forum Kentish Town, a venue I’ve been to several times – last time to see former Gene frontman Martin Rossiter’s farewell show. Some more notes on the venue and approaches to it there.

Here with gig buddy Dave (DPi), after a day at Lord’s cricket ground watching many wickets tumble on the first day of the first test match of the series between  England and New Zealand. Great day but not the best way to build up for a gig. A fair walk from Lord’s to a Camden hotel and on up to Kentish Town. I was knackered but we are in just in time for the Heartless Bastards, supporting tonight.

Support from The Heartless Bastards

Rocky, bluesy and a bit country: they are a pleasant listen and hold the interest. They’re from Cincinnati and have been going for about 20 years so they’re no slouches. Very much a supporting slot: quiet mellow and uneventful given what was coming.

We hold a space just behind those in early to lean on the rear of the mixing desk area, which sinks down into the lower standing area. A decent view but a while into the Flaming Lips I lose my spot on a mission back to the gents and the bar.

Now I’ve never seen the Flaming Lips and, other than the odd track on evening radio, they aren’t a band I’d listened to until recently. They are a band that I thought I’d see given the opportunity arose and given the reputation of their live shows.

They come from Oklahoma, formed in 1983, so a lifetime of building a following, dare I say a weird one, well certainly an eclectic one – I went walkabout in the venue so I saw a variety.

Cheers as people come on to the exceptionally well dressed stage, with large shiny bird cage-like structures to either side. This isn’t the band coming on amid the dry-ice though, it’s roadies to inflate a large plastic ball in front of the two drum kits. Cheers become a roar, as lead singer Wayne Coyne greets the crowd and gets into the bubble and gets on with the  show.

Wayne Coyne – The Flaming Lips

The ventilation must have been good as it doesn’t steam up and the vocals still sound…OK.  He is in there for a few songs before roadies are on again inflating a giant rainbow…. then tickertape starts shooting everywhere.

Flaming Lips wow O2 Kentish Town

The set list for tonight takes a back seat to the extraordinary on stage distractions. Wayne Coyle is really good at building the atmosphere and reaction like an old music hall host talking up the act..but he and the band are the act. He repeats the possibility, given Covid and all the bad stuff, that what if this was to be the last Flaming Lips show we ever saw, then they were going to give us “the best f*cking show in the World”.

The Pink Robot battle

The album I’ve been listening to is Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002) but it still takes me a while to work out what is being pumped up on stage. Ahhh. Penny drops.

As the pink robot deflates, I nip back to the gents, try and get anywhere near bar service and give up and return to find the crowd has sealed itself in, around where I was stood. Legs flagging I ask security if I can try and get a seat upstairs, separately ticketed. “Welcome to try but it’s pretty full up there”. I  go up. It’s rammed. All seats taken, people standing in the rear aisles, but there are some places to lean up at the back and I sit on the back step for a bit. It’s been a long day. Not a great view with some legacy Covid perspex partitions up. It’s huge up here.

There is a bar behind the auditorium mid-way up and another one right at the top rear. I stopped at the middle one as no one queueing and DJ Jo Wiley appears next to me to which I do a bit of an animated double-take. She has that yes it’s me look without me needing to ask anything stupid. Radio 6 man Shaun Keaveny then appears behind. This band really do have a reputation then.

The bubble in smoke – rear balcony view

I stand, lean and sit in a few places upstairs, only getting a seat with a half decent view near the end. Front half of the balcony here would be worth chasing sometime. A lot ismade of a toy bird which Coyne builds a story on…. a flight out into the crowd. This was lost on me and I couldn’t see at this point.

Towards the end of the main set a young girl is introduced – I think Coyne said she was 12 – to sing while they played a cover of Nick Cave’s Red Right Hand. Great song although the performance and inclusion of it a bit abstract.

Wayne Coyne – back in his bubble

Coyne returns to the bubble for the end. The faithful clearly loved it. I felt like I had experienced their unusual and much heralded show but my lack of familiarity with their work hampered me. It was thanks and goodnight… some big bangs, more sparkly tickertape and some thoughtful bespoke ballons float out as I stagger downstairs for the walk back to Camden…..via the Bengal Lancer which does some good paneer dishes.

Goodnight London (Dave DPi pic)

The Flaming Lips were in Q Magazine’s 2002 list of one of the bands to see before you die, at number 14. I can see why with all the distractions. I feel I’ve done it now though.

Published by ivaninblack

Still wild about live music - bands - gigs - festivals - after 42 years at it. All photos have been snapped by me or I will point out otherwise - I'll even own up to any blurry mobile phone ones. If gigaholic is a phrase then in recent years I think I've become one.

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