The Flaming Lips make live from Jodrell Bank a special night

Live from Jodrell Bank 2011 review

published: Thu 7th Jul 2011

The Flaming Lips

Saturday 2nd July 2011
Jodrell Bank Visitor Centre and Arboretum, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK119DL, England MAP
£35 - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 5000
last updated: Tue 28th Jun 2011

Each member of OK Go asserted their individuality by wearing a different, but equally bright and garish, pastel coloured suit; and each had unique hair dos and arrangements of facial hair, some of them wearing the kind of hat that makes a statement. Along with the handsome front man, and the bland inoffensive indie rock they were playing, they seemed the perfect choice for a CBBC special on how to do rock and roll safely. They didn't seem the perfect choice for Transmission 001 of the new Live from Jodrell Bank series taking place in the shadow of the Lovell Telescope.

around the site
But the sun was shining, and my brain was brimming with all the satisfying bite size science I had been learning so I was in a forgiving mood. And they played an entire song with just cow bells, so it wasn't all bad.

Besides, if ever the music failed to interest, enjoyment could be derived simply by looking around. To the left of the stage was the giant Lovell telescope, always in view, and dotted around the rest of the landscape were more dishes of various sizes and sparse coverage of trees. The landscape looked positively alien, and it was a novelty that never wore off, and in fact intensified as the evening went on.

British Sea Power was another average experience. Though their music was interesting, their stage presence didn't deliver. I'd heard stories of band members climbing stage rigging and being knocked unconscious from failed stage dives, but there was none of that. The band merely played their songs, standing as stationary as the stage they were on.

British Sea Power
Hearing some of their classics, like 'No Lucifer', and 'Waving Flags', was clearly a joyful experience for much of the crowd, and had them drunkenly falling around singing heartily the way people do when someone plays and Oasis track in a Manchester night club. But to someone who doesn't revere their music to the point where the sound of it causes a loss of motor control, the show was pleasant if not a little uninteresting.

There was a flurry of activity in the last five minutes or so, when the band extended their closing track into a jam, at which point a man dressed as a robot and another dressed as a bear began to fight on stage, occasionally thumping one of the band members in the back. This was amusing, but all this activity crammed into the final part of the set after forty minutes of next to nothing happening, made the spectacle feel a little rehearsed.

Thankfully the less than inspiring acts throughout the day were punctuated by the University of Manchester's Dr Tim O'Brien taking the stage and telling the audience facts about the colossal telescope, and about the things it is used to pick up. He played sonic representations of celestial bodies spinning at frightening speeds in some unfathomably far off corner of the universe, which confused and fascinated in equal measure.

Just before the night's headliners were due to come on, Dr Tim established contact with someone in the control room of the telescope, and asked him to move the telescope into "target position" (very Dr. Evil). Promptly the huge structure began to turn on its rails until the dish was facing the crowd, revealing true majesty of the machine.

The Flaming Lips
Throughout The Flaming Lips, the night's headliners, the dish was used as a screen to project the band's visuals on, filling it with psychedelic swirls of colour. The most impressive of which was just before the encore when a projection of the Earth filled it. The concave shape of the dish created the illusion that it was convex, and so confronted us with a giant 3D Earth dwarfing the stage.

What was happening on stage was no less impressive. Front man Wayne Coyne kicked off the mayhem by running out on top of the crowd in an inflatable 'space ball'. Something that would have seemed bizarre in any other circumstance, but felt strangely appropriate given the setting.

The Flaming Lips
Once he'd surfed safely back to the stage, and emerged from the ball, the band burst into 'Worm Mountain', and from the stage flew an endless torrent of colourful balloons and spiralling confetti. The clarity of sound was head and shoulders above the earlier bands, with the loud fuzzy distortion of the guitars in no way drowning out the electronic nuances that give their music its space faring flavour.

Every song they played was an event in and of itself, each with their own distinct aesthetic and sound, from the sing along ode to hope against impossible odds, 'Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt 1', to the strange and wonderful 'Laser Hands', during which Coyne guided a disco ball down from the ceiling with a giant pair of laser emitting hands - there were lasers everywhere! Such an unrelenting display of great music, set design and showmanship seriously realigned my thoughts on what bands could be doing, and should be doing with their live shows.

The Flaming Lips
Though the bands earlier in the day were nothing special, The Flaming Lips gave a performance that everyone who was there will never forget, and everyone who wasn't will never hear the end of. This, along with the chance to see one of the world's most important and largest pieces of scientific equipment, made transmission 001 of live from Jodrell Bank a special night. Coyne had it right when he said "to stand here in the symbolic shadow of this great achievement I think is the best place to be on planet Earth right now."
review by: Robert Knowles

photos by: Bryn Russell

Saturday 2nd July 2011
Jodrell Bank Visitor Centre and Arboretum, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK119DL, England MAP
£35 - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 5000
last updated: Tue 28th Jun 2011


latest on this festival

Live from Jodrell Bank
festival home page
last updated: Fri 11th Mar 2016
feel good on Sunday
video of the day
last updated: Sun 9th Mar 2014