at the Birmingham NIA * * * *
Review by John Revill
Nobody really does shows like The Flaming Lips, singer Wayne Coyne told the crowd towards the end of the show.
When you have Captain America (or at least a man in a Captain America suit) and other superheroes in your road crew, you could say that was a bit of an understatement.
Fans dressed up in alien masks to the left of them, others dancing along dressed as Father Christmases to the right, it was already a surreal start.
But then Coyne climbed into a giant ball and rolled across the audience while a barrage of smaller balloons descended and bounced around.
From then on, weird visuals and projections backed the Lips' cosmic rock amid the occasional salvo of confetti.
But that did not detract from the music – uplifting anthems which stayed just the right side of weird and wonderful, uplifting without being twee or sentimental.
Not many bands have written songs about the sacrifices scientists make in their struggles for medical breakthroughs, but The Lips have, with set opener Race for the Prize.
Coyne's voice, initially cracked, recovered as he chatted merrily with the audience and he explained how The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song's first outing in Birmingham had spawned a new type of audience participation.
This involved the crowd singing "yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah" a few dozen times while he spoke through a slowed-down, acoustic version of the song, before it was launched in its technicolour glory.
For when it comes to strange sounds and effects, the Lips are in a league of their own – although the Santas and aliens struggled to dance to some of the weirder moments.
An achingly beautiful Do You Realise? before Captain America came out to gee up the crowd for an encore of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Yes, the Queen song got the Lips treatment, with the words projected onto a massive screen in what became a giant feelgood karaoke.
As I left, someone was carting home one of the giant orange balloons as a souvenir of a strange but wonderful show.