Wayne Coyne knows a thing or two about building suspense. Suited in Butlins’ red, the silver-maned Flaming Lips band leader raises the anticipation to dizzying heights when conducting the opening strains of wonky sci-fi overture ‘Race for the Prize’. His hands move with Proms-like grandiosity at the start of each teasing synth segment, before pumping the air like an elated sports star as the band erupts with a wall of colourful noise, inviting rapturous applause with his flailing hands and half-manic gaze. The packed dome waits for the drop, strapped in and ready for lift off.
Then, with that magical swipe of harp-like piano, the Oklahomans’ 1999 psych epic takes flight and it’s like a shot of serotonin: giant latex balloons invade the room like vivid floating boulders, cannons fire streams of eye-catching confetti and the front row is doused in clouds of gold glitter flung from the hand of Coyne himself. There’s chaos, confusion, a joyous melee of ecstatic people in an adult playpen celebrating like it’s the strike of twelve on New Year’s Eve.
Whereas this was once the grand finale of a Flaming Lips show, it is now just an emphatic introduction: Coyne voyages through the crowd on a neon mythical creature for futuristic new tune ‘There Should Be Unicorns’, he dances around like an overjoyed marathon runner in a shiny foil blanket during ‘The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song’ and is backed by two dancing eyeballs who jig to the Velcro-like riff at the heart of ‘The W.A.N.D.’. He also takes a jaunt across a sea of outstretched arms in his giant hamster ball during a cover of Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, before delivering a moving monologue about the seminal music of the late, great musical icon.
Songs old, new and downright odd make up the rest of the Lips’ mind-expanding set, which concludes with ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ and ‘Do You Realize??’ in front of a stage-spanning inflatable rainbow. The combination leaves the dome’s crowd gazing on in slack-jawed awe, a sure sign that The Flaming Lips are at the peak of their powers with a live experience that delights and dumbfounds.