Live Review: The Flaming Lips + FM Belfast + Royal Headache – The Domain, Sydney (09.01.16)

An annual piece in Sydney’s calendar, the Sydney Festival’s opening Domain concert has replaced the city-wide Festival First Night with the focus on one big act at The Domain. With previous years sporting artists such as Brian Wilson, Chaka Khan, Grace Jones and Manu Chau, it was a somewhat odd but welcome choice to this year be brought The Flaming Lips, with their technicolour party in tow.

Different from previous years, The Domain was fenced off and BYO food and drink not allowed. The presence of bag checks and sniffer dogs at entry also massively let the mood down; the city’s current political climate enacting measures that were way off the mark for the largely older, laid-back and even family-filled crowd. It’s a shame that we’re now in a position where no one can be trusted to simply have a good time, even at a free government concert, and it remains to be seen whether or not the powers that be at state government brought out the law due to having a ‘rock band’ as the headliner this year.

Nevertheless, the vibe on the grass in The Domain was pleasant with a mixed crowd of old and young, and a very comfortable amount of space within the grounds. Royal Headache were a welcome last minute edition and brought their punk ‘n’ blues to a largely receptive crowd. As rowdy as they can be, the boys have broad appeal and were the perfect band to kick off the night. Frontman Shogun was at his unhinged best, telling the crowd it would have been easier for them to just plug in a laptop, but later apologising for not being one in the first place. Towards the end of the show, his aggro got the better of him, repeatedly saying that he’d ‘had enough’ of the show and that the next song would be their last. It’s a shame we don’t get to see more of these guys, but getting them on the bill in front of a large crowd for free was excellent for a band who rarely play live these days.

FM Belfast were then something else entirely, bringing a fluro-coloured electro pop vibe reminiscent of 2006. Hailing from Iceland, they were akin to Architecture in Helsinki, with more of the Helsinki. Oddball, energetic and colourful, with six on stage all jumping around and singing simultaneously, it was a great introduction to our country for a band we largely know nothing about. Let’s hope they come back soon.

The Flaming Lips made a very non-pompous entrance, with Wayne Coyne simply telling the crowd he thought the host’s intro of the band would go for longer, before opening with the very chilled “The Abandoned Hotel Ship”. The confetti cannons were out in full force from the first song, hinting at the fun yet to come. “Fight Test” followed before launching straight into “She Don’t Use Jelly”, by which time they’d brought out some inflatable aliens and a giant balloon set that read ‘Fuck Yeah Sydney’. Coyne was at his quirky best, motivating the crowd into a higher mood and acting like the very psychedelic cult leader. All the regular tricks were in store, from happy sun and caterpillar characters during “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1”, to a gigantic cape made of LED lights, a huge strobe mounted to his chest, to the inflated ball Coyne rides over the crowd, which has become an all time favourite of their live shows.

Rumours abounded of Miley Cyrus making an appearance, what with her being in the country and having had shot a video with the Lips earlier that week. Alas her face was not to be seen, with Coyne jokingly mentioning she was ‘too fucked up’ to come out to join in on a cover of her song “Evil is But a Shadow”. By this time it didn’t matter, the technicolour train had rolled in and we were buried in the fun. Finishing up with “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate”, before coming back for an encore of “Do You Realize??”, the band left a huge smile on old fans while leaving a heap of new ones – old and young – in their path.

Government force aside, let’s see more of this at the festival next year.

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