Gig Reviews

The Flaming Lips + FM Belfast + Royal Headache + Hermigervill – The Domain, Sydney 09/01/16

What’s in a name? Quite a bit if you happen to be called Hermigervill. Sure, it’s a little easier to say than his real name — but, then again, most things are when your name is Sveinbjörn Thorarensen. Thankfully, the cheery long-haired Reykjavik native keeps everything else fairly straightforward.

Thorarensen is essentially a one-man party machine, laying down big beats of the bubblegum-bass orientation and artfully weaving in tuneful theremin and thick layers of synth. He arrives on stage a stranger, but he leaves having charmed the early arrivals at Sydney Festival‘s 2016 Summer Sounds In The Domain with tales of heartbreak and triumph between his impressive compositions. Ótrúlegur.

It’s safe to say Royal Headache don’t enjoy big shows. They were berated online by a baby-boomer after opening for The Black Keys — infamously labelling them “the height of rudeness” — while vocalist Shogun spent the majority of their set at the Big Day Out in his underwear, bemoaning the weather.

Tonight, naturally, doesn’t feel like an exception. They play brilliantly, of course — even throwing in an obscure number, Eloise, between killer cuts from High and their self-titled album — but Shogun is once again having none of it. “Sorry I’m not a computer,” he spits. They deserve better.

Thorarensen makes his way back on stage shortly afterward, only this time he’s not alone. He’s one of the many voices that make up Icelandic collective FM Belfast — a band so richly, brightly and nigh-on stupidly happy, they make Grouplove look like Type O Negative.

Where on earth the Sydney Festival pulled these joyful electro-pop jesters from is anyone’s guess, but the crowd has at it. Picture the love given out to Thorarensen solo multiplied a good half-dozen times over and you’re getting close to the mark. From gold short-shorts to streamer-throwing, FM Belfast was pure celebration.

This, of course, sets the stage perfectly for the band proudly known as the fearless freaks to send out what is ostensibly the first Saturday night of the Sydney Festival.

Opening up their amazing technicolour universe to the general public means that there are many in attendance that have never seen The Flaming Lips in action. In a way, it makes one wish you could do the same — the wide-eyed endorphin-release of each big-hit sing-along; the completely batshit costumed dancers (the sun, Santa, two giant butterflies); the famous bubble-walk. Sure, knowing what’s to come has the power to take the fun out of a live Flaming Lips experience — but only if you let it.

Truth be told, there’s nothing quite like singing Do You Realize?? at the top of your lungs as confetti rains down and stage-lights beam across your face. It’s something that never gets old. Given the chance, it can instantly lift your mood and affirm your belief in the power of live music.

The Flaming Lips give audiences moments like these. The fact they were able to do it for their largest Sydney audience ever just meant there was more love to go around.

Gallery: The Flaming Lips + FM Belfast + Royal Headache + Hermigervill – The Domain, Sydney 09.01.16 / Photos: Ashley Mar

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