The Flaming Lips/Gnarls Barkley: University Of Southern California, LA; Sunday, Dec 31, 2006

The Flaming Lips/Gnarls Barkley: University Of Southern California, LA; Sunday, Dec 31, 2006

Confetti, giant bananas and spacemen: it’s New Year’s Eve Wayne Coyne style

“Thank you for giving us the chance to be part of this momentous event, you beautiful humans,” grins a silver-headed alien from his flashing, twirling spaceship in the University Of Southern California’s newly-opened sports arena. And the message this interplanetary traveller has brought to the assembled masses on this, the annual completion of the Earth’s circumnavigation of our sun? Er… ‘Auld Lang Syne’. Bloody unimaginative extra-terrestrials.

It’s New Year in LA, and this is the only party worth beaming down to. Tonight’s host: Flaming Lips frontman and intergalactic indie bon viveur Wayne Coyne. Tonight he’s leading a sea of us into 2007, but not without a helping hand.

It’s hard to think of a band whose success more defined 2006 than Gnarls Barkley, but that may not be the reason Wayne’s brought them along – it’s their dressing up box. Tonight, they’re keeping the sci-fi fire alight by donning astronaut suits complete with bubble-shaped helmets, while their string section is sexed-up by mini-skirted Barbarella clones. Opening with ‘Go-Go Gadget Gospel’, the group swoop through their triumphant album and into an eerie version of David Bowie’s astronomic anthem ‘Space Oddity’. “The next song is the reason I’m rich and famous today,” beams Cee-Lo, only half-joking, before the thumping bassline of their mega-hit ‘Crazy’ kicks in. There are single-celled beings living 3,000 feet beneath Neptune’s gassy surface who’ve tired of this song, but tonight it glistens afresh as the party track of the year.

Getting a room full of pissed students dancing on New Year’s Eve is not the toughest task ever and the Lips’ team of superheroes, pogoing aliens and (non-season specific) Santas are masters of the art. Anyway there’s yet to be an audience created who don’t go wild for Coyne’s trips across their heads in his transparent lunar orb. As midnight chimes the place erupts in a colourful cascade of confetti and giant balloons across a sea of giant bananas, pieces of sushi and mauled Martians thrusting their tongues into each other’s mouths. Joined onstage by Cee-Lo, Danger Mouse and special guest Cat Power, they break into ‘What A Wonderful World’ as gleely as though they just discovered Planet Earth. Around the world tonight it’s 2007, but onstage with The Flaming Lips, we’re light years ahead.

Laura Ferreiro