There are some gigs you wake up from knowing you’ve seen something a bit different.
Maybe it was the sight of the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz proposing to Dorothy before the Flaming Lips’ final encore. Alternatively, it might have been the fight between a cardboard robot and a giant bear at the climax of British Sea Power’s set. It could have been the sheer awesomeness of seeing Jodrell Bank’s giant radio telescope slowly rotate into position while the infectiously enthusiastic Dr Tim O’Brien explained what it can see. Or maybe it was the surreal sight of Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne bundling over the top of the crowd in an inflatable ball.
Whatever, no one left in any doubt that the first Live From Jodrell Bank Transmission was a phenomenal, memorable show. Support acts Alice Gold, OK Go, Wave Machines and British Sea Power all played their part in a brilliantly anarchic day in the sunshine, but this event was utterly dominated by the climactic love-in between Wayne Coyne’s Flaming Lips and the 76-metre Lovell Telescope.
From their wonder-inducing entrance amid balloons, confetti and explosions – and lots of Wizard of Oz-themed dancers – to the euphoria of their show-stopping encore ‘Do You Realize??’, the Lips owned the stage and seemed to take control of the telescope itself. So much was going visually, it was easy to just stand open-mouthed like a wide-eyed toddler in a toy shop on more than one occasion.
Throughout, the giant structure of the telescope loomed over proceedings like an extra-terrestrial protector, seemingly beaming the sights and sounds of the gig out into the infinite wonder of space. Even the crowd were overtaken by the cerebral nature of the night, chanting “science, science, science” halfway through.
Before the Flaming Lips’ first encore, the crowd were treated to something special, as a short film was projected onto the circular dish of the giant telescope outlining its history and purpose. As Richard Strauss’s ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ – also used in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ – boomed out of the speakers alongside the inspiring pictures of space on the biggest screen you could possibly imagine, it was hard not to be taken over by the sheer joy of it all.
In fact, there was something brilliantly joyous about the whole occasion. Fortunately for us Forever Manchester volunteers, that feel-good factor translated into the crowd while we were asking for their support too. Lots of them were interested in the kind of projects the charity funds and were more than happy to dig deep and make a donation. Plenty were happy to have their photo taken too.
In one particularly philosophical moment towards the end, Coyne suggested we were all in the single best place on the planet. Overly-dramatic perhaps, but a theory that was hard to disprove.
Words: Guy Kilty
Photos: Bart Pettman and Tom Martin