Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Review of The Flaming Lips at the Roundhouse in London on May 27, 2013

What the heck did we do to deserve that?

Forget Yoshimi, the evil robots have definitely won. Gone are the dancing animals, the space bubble, the balloons and the feeling that it's good to be alive. Instead we got a retina-searing light show and ninety minutes of nihilistic, ear-numbing motorway pile-ups.

Even Do You Realize?, that carpe diem band anthem, was turned into a funereal dirge. But at least that had a recognisable tune. Most of the set was was made up of the soul-crushingly desperate soundtrack to a heroin overdose that is their unlistenable new album, The Terror.

Wayne's signature white, fake-blood-spattered suit has been replaced by a blue satin number, his confetti gun swapped for a handheld light beam that he used to sporadically machine-gun the muttering Roundhouse crowd from his podium of light. His microphone-cam of smiles replaced by a weird baby doll he cuddled during the opening numbers.

Unsurprisingly, the industrial-strength strobe lighting proved too much for one fan 50 minutes in. The show was halted by Wayne for ten minutes while medics ushered out the victim of what sounded like an epileptic fit.

"Yeah - that happens. Our lights are fuckin' intense. But if you feel you're starting to panic, here's the thing - just don't look at them," advised Wayne. Yeah, cheers for that.

Two tracks after the hiatus, one of them a memorable version of Bowie's Heroes which was bizarrely and worryingly the highlight of the night, and Wayne nipped backstage to check on his stricken fan. "She's alright!" he reported to the remaining battle-scarred crowd. Having a great time like the rest of us.

Wayne - instead of trying to frazzle our brains why not play us some of your majestic, joyous songs? Not the two melody-free buzz-guitar feedback fests that should have been left safely in 1996, but the ones the couples in the plastic Hawaiian garlands had come to hear - tunes from Yoshimi and The Soft Bulletin, Tangerine. We did get a grudging, pared-down version of Race For The Prize - usually a triumphant opener - but even that felt like the race had been well and truly lost. Swap those garlands for a noose.

Then at the end of the night Wayne stood near the exit and punched every one of us in the face on the way out. Well, he may as well have done.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Review of OMD at the Roundhouse in Camden, London, on May 3, 2013

Can you believe it was 30 years ago when we went to see OMD at The Hacienda in Manchester? That's a lifetime ago. A wife, two teenage kids, three houses and four English cities ago. A headful of big, grey hair ago.

Tonight we were right back there, electronic-note perfect.  As the opening track on the new album points out, the future you have anticipated has been cancelled. But I like mine so far.

English Electric is the name of that album - the title saluting patriotically to Synth Britannia, the new name for the old Roland synthesiser stuff. Magnificent electronic pageantry. Tonight there was one Roland either side of a massive drum kit. Back in the day, instead of the drums, it was a reel to reel four-track tape recorder called Winston. Times have changed.

Tonight the sensational Roundhouse was full of people like us. Couples re-living what it felt like to be 17, 18, 19. How many of them knew the people they were with tonight when Enola Gay exploded like a nuclear bomb on Top Of The Pops?

We warmed up with a DJ set full of Blancmange, Heaven 17, Yazoo and The Human League. It was great. Like being dumped in a warm bath full of Vangelis.

Back in '83, OMD were supported by Howard Jones and a bald guy dancing in chains and his pirate pants. They'd just  released Dazzle Ships, an album with a cover by Factory designer legend Peter Saville and a mixed bunch of songs that included Genetic Engineering, with that spell-toy robot voice, and Telegraph - words on paper, written in sand.

Tonight they framed the stage with the yellow and black diagonals of The Hacienda. And they were tremendous. Andy still dances like a teenager, untucked white shirt over black jeans. He's totally at ease as a veteran, joshing, bass-playing frontman. Paul is more like Ernie to Andy's Eric but put him front of a microphone for Souvenir and the mobile phones were up and recording every red-tied moment.

That and Maid of Orleans seemed to melt everyone to Pot Noodle.

The new stuff segues beautifully with the old. Andy: "So as this is the Capital, you'll all be very cultured. How many of you have heard of Edward Hopper? Four? That's not bad. This one is about one of his paintings. It's called Night Cafe."

Yeah, well, don't get too cocky, you Wirral boys. Just because we don't put our hands up, it don't mean we ain't heard of him.

So we bobbed to Locomotion, Forever Live and Die, Sailing on the Seven Seas - all of them filling us with electro happiness. And along came Enola Gay right at the end. We loved it. But what's left for the encore: they've played the lot.

Cue Andy: "We don't know when we'll see you again. But we end where we began aged 16."

And the opening jolts of Electricity filled us with love, joy, longing, happiness, despair, loss and love, love, love.

We made it, everyone. We made it.