If there was ever an event to epitomise everything great about the 2017 Hull City of Culture celebration, then it was The Flaming Lips at Zebedee’s Yard. All year, the optimism and smiles on the faces of Hull’s residents have steadily crept up as, a bit like the 2012 Olympics, people have realised that this great big event is going pretty well. This city is not used to being treated to so many great bands in one year but by the end of 2017, the likes of Primal Scream, ELO, The Libertines and the Radio 1 Big Weekend, will have all played in Hull. The Flaming Lips joined the party on Saturday and brought their surreal universe to this necks of the woods and painted it in glorious Technicolor.
Zebedee’s Yard, with its enclosed, outdoor, natural amphitheatre surroundings was the perfect venue for the day, as Dutch Uncles with their matching navy blue clothes suitably glided with their proggy indie pop. The initial shyness of singer Duncan Wallis gradually melted and his moves resonated with the audience.
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Public Service Broadcasting provided a very satisfying opening set. Coming across like a British Kraftwerk, their set was, as their BBC inspired t shirts suggested, informative, educational and entertaining. If they had been born 50 years earlier, the band could easily have soundtracked the moon landings to viewers at home. Still, with audio and visual samples accompanying their sumptuous melodies and licks, you came away from their set feeling like you’d learned something. The biggest cheers came from their brass section who gave their set a somewhat Daft Punk feel to it.
Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne directed the audience in his gentle and dynamic way during opener ‘Race For the Prize‘, ‘The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song‘ and ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt 1’. He quite literally parted them like the sea when he rode through the crowd on the back of a giant unicorn during the song ‘There Should Be Unicorns’. Agreed, but only if they’re ridden by eccentrics from Oklahoma, judging by the reaction of the audience who got to touch their hero, they’ll gather more followers than Trump.
The best moment of the gig was the cover of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity‘. After playing the song Wayne Coyne, who performed it from inside of his giant inflatable ball in the crowd, said how they’ve played it regularly after Bowie’s death but after each show vowing not to, and then doing it anyway. But a visit to Hull without playing this classic would have been sacrilege, as the boy from Brixton holds a special place in the collective heart of the city, due to the Mick Ronson and the other Spiders From Mars being from Hull. It’s probably unlikely that The Flaming Lips knew this but it was a fantastic touch and it’s nice to think that the band knew this.
The audience were treated to the usual Lips goodies, the giant Wayne Coyne ball, tons of confetti, balloons and inflatables but what the Lips did so effortlessly was bunch the crowd together in the four letter word that flashed on the screen after ‘A Spoonful Weighs a Ton‘: Love. Usually at the end of a great gig there’s a happy and satisfied vibe about the place. The audience have got their monies worth and can go home happy and like the ringing of the amps, it gradually fades into the night. But the element of pleasant surprise filled the summery air after the final Lips song ‘Do You Realize??’ as if people were stunned that while they knew the show would be good they, didn’t know it would be THAT good. Wayne Coyne and co. spread out their arms and squeezed Hull into the biggest bear hug ever and released them into a slightly better world than it was a little earlier.