The last couple of years Iceland Airwaves has developed a tradition of closing the festival with a grand finale on Sunday evening. Last year it was Kraftwerk in Harpa, this year the final shout came in the form of an utterly amazing, no-words-can-do-justice performance by The Flaming Lips.
So, end of review as no words can describe it? No, I’m supposed to deliver a 500-word piece on the matter and of course, one must oblige.
First of all: the venue. Vodafonehöllin, a sports hall, like so many other concert venues. Usually these places are useless for the purposes of delivering music to the masses. But this one is in fact not too bad. I haven’t been there since a disastrous Hurts gig a few years back, a show that turned into a bit of a farce due to repeated power cuts. This place is actually the perfect size for an act like The Flaming Lips. Hopefully it means that more performers of that caliber will grace us with their presence in years to come.
The first act of the night, Philadelphian The War on Drugs is an excellent, tight rock ‘n’ roll band. I really like this band and think their latest album Lost in the Dream is one of this year’s best albums. Frontman Adam Granduciel noted at one point that this was the last gig of a long tour and you could really hear that; the performance went very smoothly and the band played with great confidence. It could not be more different from the act that followed, so in comparison they might seem a bit dull, no pyros, no gimmicks, but that says more about The Flaming Lips than about The War on Drugs.
The War on Drugs. Matthew Eisman/Iceland Airwaves.
What could one expect from the main act? It’s Sunday night, the fifth night in a row of attending concerts intensely. People are tired; more water is being sold at the bar than beer, so the crowd is in a slightly calmer mode. That was about to change.
At some meeting in The Flaming Lips’ camp somebody must have asked a question no one has ever asked before. You know that confetti-and-balloons gimmick that everybody uses to finish off gigs in style? Why not come charging out with it in our first song? Just stun everyone with a full-on, encore-like-blow-to-the-head from song one?
That just set the tone, from there on you simply could not take your eyes off the stage. That is until frontman Wayne Coyne came rolling through the crowd in an inflatable ball to perform a song on a small b-stage in the middle of the hall.
The Flaming Lips. Matthew Eisman/Iceland Airwaves.
But it was not all gimmicks and trick. The set was a mixture of new and old songs with a few covers, ending with an out-of-this-world cover of The Beatles’ ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.’ You can have all the smart party tricks you want, but it never replaces good songs and professional musicianship. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun while at it. And that seems to be the thing The Flaming Lips are doing to perfection, having fun with their musical legacy.
So, 600 plus words on something no words can describe. Don’t take my (too many) words for it, go see The Flaming Lips yourself before it’s too late. If you don’t have a smile on your face when you return from the concert, don’t worry about it, that thing they call ‘enjoying yourself’ maybe just isn’t your thing.
Brynjar Vatnsdal – brynjarvatnsdal(at)hotmail.com
Brynjar Vatnsdal is a biomedical engineer by profession and a devoted music fan and record collector. He has a collection of a few thousand CDs and vinyl records spanning the past 50 years of musical history, both local and international.