Review: Galway Arts Festival

The Flaming Lips Galway Arts Festival Big Top

As an alternative band mixing it up in the mainstream, the Flaming Lips enjoyed a fine run of it between the years 1999-2006. Yet, even if their popularity has declined a little since then, their reputation as one of the world’s greatest live acts remains intact.

In the Big Top they wasted no time in whipping the audience up into a frenzy, singer Wayne Coyne launching a volley of streamers above our heads pre-show to get the carnival vibe going. A few minutes later, the band rolled onstage and kicked giant coloured balloons out among the crowd to the score of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Coyne and his comrades take such an infectious delight in putting on a show that — for an hour at least — you feel genuinely transformed. During an imperious opening, the band run through favourites such as ‘Fight Test’, ‘Race for the Prize’, and ‘Yoshimi Versus the Pink Robots’, the latter being sung by Coyne from behind a huge inflated robot.

An even more remarkable moment occurs during new song ‘There Should Be Unicorns’ when Coyne — a pair of rainbow-striped angel wings on his back — rides a unicorn through the audience.This show-stopping moment is actually eclipsed a short while later when Coyne climbs inside an inflatable ball and surfs around on the audience while delivering a touching cover of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’.

There are special gigs, and then there are special gigs. This one was off the charts.

Jennifer Cunningham Festival Gallery

Despite sharing gallery space with David Mach’s typically loud and large installation, Jennifer Cunningham’s After the Future was arguably the stand-out visual arts exhibition at this year’s festival.

The Irish artist’s mixed media paintings on paper are overpowering in their distinctive use of colour. The encounters between blushed violet tones and vivid turquoise textures here is positively trippy — at once seductive and unnerving — and it conducts the artist’s imagery of eerie childhood reveries and environmental change very effectively. But it is the little things that stand out: the renegade streaks of paint that run ominously askew; the fact that the paper edges of each painting are frayed; the fragments of text — like some sort of lost code — barely perceptible beneath the paint.

[ib] - Padraic Killeen


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