A bleak, grey winter sky looms over Manchester’s Academy, which tonight plays host to The Flaming Lips’ second of only two UK shows on their tour. Eager fans huddle together in the queue, a thin, droopy rollie their only source of warmth as rain drizzles down. Inside the venue it’s like stumbling upon a different reality, because, hey, this is The Flaming Lips. But what is that reality in 2017, now that ‘Oczy Mlody’ exists – the band’s 17th album; an uncharacteristically ambient record from this troupe of confetti-lovers and carnival float hippies. How does that affect the Flaming Lips party? The simple answer is that is doesn’t.
A 12ft inflatable mushroom greets us from the cold, and a giant disco ball hangs in front of vocalist Wayne Coyne as his burst onstage with the psychedelic theatrics of ‘The Soft Bulletin’. Countless multi-coloured balloons bounce around the audience and a dazzling light show erupts. That’s song one, and no doubt sounds familiar, as is Coyne’s giant hamster ball, confetti canyon, inflatable friends and – perhaps a new addition – a unicorn covered in wedding disco snake lights.