Empire of the Sun

Concert Review: Empire of the Sun, September 9, Danforth Music Hall

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | Leave a comment

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In a world where all the young kids suffer severely from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), is there a better set closer to help pacify that then the song Alive from Empire of the Song?

Take a look at the chorus (which by the way, everyone was singing to):

Loving every minute ’cause you make me feel so alive, alive
Loving every minute ’cause you make me feel so alive, alive
Alive, alive

Who doesn’t want to dance and sing about being “alive” while confetti drops from the ceiling in front of a band that looks like they are tribe from Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future?

The answer is obvious: nobody.

Monday night’s Empire of the Sun show was not packed by any means, but those who went had a hell of a time. At this point, it is fair to say that Empire of the Sun doesn’t stray far from their electro-pop formula – icy beats, acoustic arrangements and a falsetto chorus drenched in synthesizers, however this formula works really well for them live. You forget how much you love singing along with people until you hit an Empire of the Song concert and you are singing out songs like Half Mast or new hit Concert Pitch in your most outrageous falsetto. It makes for a very engaging experience overall.

As one would expect from a band whose style overwhelms their substance, the show was a visual delight. Aside from Luke Steele wearing his trademark headpiece, there was a drummer and a multi-instrumentalist wearing what appears to be spartan-esque outfits. Just like last time, there were four mesmerizing dancers whose outfits ranged from what can be described as space metallic pelicans to some creature that you would see in Pans Labyrinth. Each song had a set piece associated with it, along with backing videos, lights, elevating stages and smoke. Every little touch just added to the Empire of the Sun experience and makes for a bit of a ‘whoa’ factor for people. It’s nice to see a band put that much effort into their live show when they aren’t at the stadium level of success.

In the end, the people who went to the show came for the hits. Walking on a Dream, Standing on the Shore, We Are the People and the previously mentioned Alive had the entire crowd buzzing and there were among other things – a crowd invasion, a smashed guitar and in one of the funnier moments, Luke Steele shoving a microphone into an old man during Walking on a Dream and telling him to “sing it!” to which he complied. That guy must have been the coolest father ever.

PM Presents: Mark’s Best of 2011

Posted on by Mark in Year End Reviews | Leave a comment

As another year draws to a close, it’s time for Panic Manualers old and new to contemplate what has just happened. For many of us, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the music released in 2011. For others, it’s an opportunity to reflect on just about everything else.

This year was the whirly-windiest yet. While I can’t say I saw as much live music as I would have liked, there were certainly some moments worth mentioning. The Panic Manual hosted another successful 90’s party at the Boat in Kensington Market, and that was the most exciting DJ experience I’ve had to date. It’s amazing to think how we’ve grown from a blog that used to cover a few shows in Toronto to covering some amazing festivals both near and far.

Here are some on the 2011 list: Canadian Music Week, NXNE, SXSW, Guelph Hillside, the Toronto Jazz Festival, Primavera (Spain), as well as a host of European festivals during Paul’s epic Lord of the Rings-esque trek to the mother land. We’ve also got some great writers stationed in Chicago, Washington and Baltimore heading up our Canada-U.S. relations. All in all, it was another great year for the Panic Manual. Thanks to Ricky for running this hot mess and thanks to all of our writers. You rock.

So without further ado, here are some things:

Best Show – Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo

Easily the most transcending show of the year; Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo played Koerner Hall for the debut launch of their album Songs of Mirth and Melancholy. These are my two favourite contemporary musicians. As much as I love Branford Marsalis’ quartet, hearing the two of them play in intimate duet format was out of this world. I could not dream up a better show. It’s almost as if the mind-control device I implanted in Toronto Jazz Festival Artistic Director Josh Grossman’s brain actually worked!! Mwuhuaha!

Honourable mention goes to Empire of the Sun. I won’t attempt to one-up Ricky’s description. It really was “the carnival meets space travel meets Thundercats”.

Best Podcast – Panic Manual Rogue Podcast

While our fearless leader Ricky was hiking the Himalayans or some shit, he left the keys to the proverbial Benz in the hands of Paul and myself. Enter Operation World Metal. While we didn’t cover as much heavy metal and world music as we would have liked, we did rogue podcast it up. The craziness of 2011 meant that we didn’t do as many of these as we’ve typically done in years past. However, we did discover that my apartment is just as echo-y as Ricky’s cavernous living room. Go figure.

Best Symphony – Bugs Bunny at the Symphony

The Toronto Symphony is in its 90th season this year. It recently hosted rock-star pianist Lang Lang for a residency last November. In the new year, they will be hosting both Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma in what will inevitably be fantastic shows. I’ve often made the case that tsoundcheck is one of the best programs to catch live Classical music for super duper cheap.

That being said, what stole the show for me this year was seeing Bugs Bunny at the Symphony. Bugs is the reason I love Classical music in the first place, so seeing a live symphony play along to my favourite Looney Tunes cartoons was both nostalgic and awesome. Prior to the show, I had the opportunity to interview conductor George Daugherty, making the entire experience that much more special

Best New Dictator – Kim Jong-un

In last year’s review, I mentioned North Korea’s dictator-in-waiting Kim Jong-un. With the recent passing of his father, “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il, it’s only fitting we re-tread on this soil. The rubber truly hits the tarmac now as North Korea’s military leaders scramble to stabilise what is already an inherently unstable country. Last year Jong-un was named the “Great Successor” and now it’s his turn to lead. Let’s hope that cooler heads can prevail and real reform can happen in this broken country.

Have a safe holiday everyone! Stay tuned in 2012 for more fun from the PM.

Best of 2011: Ricky’s Favorite Concert Moments, Part 1

Posted on by Ricky in Music, Year End Reviews | Leave a comment

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Toronto – 2011 was the beginning of the end for me. At Primavera this May, I saw Pulp one of my two favorite bands. Last December, I saw Suede, my other favorite band. In a span of six months, I saw both my favorite bands, after waiting my entire life to see them.

It will never be topped. Every show I’ve seen since has been diminished in some regard because I will always compare it to the apex of my concert going experience, and it will ultimately fail in comparison. Still, this year, like every year, was great for shows, and here are my favorite moments from this year. In a random order.

Pulp – Do You Remember The First Time?

What an amazing opening track for the show. Totally appropriate, as it was probably the first time most of us have seen Pulp. The way the lights came on, the opening verse (in which we all sang along) and then the utter explosion that was the chorus of the track (completed with the unveiling of the curtain) made this moment the best concert opening ever for me. I still get goosebumps watching this video (not taken by me):

Spin Party, SXSW: The Vaccines, OMD, The Kills, TV on the Radio

The Vaccines

Amazing weather, amazing lineup, amazing city. What more can you say about your typical afternoon at SXSW? The lineup at the Spin party featured The Vaccines, who played a brief but rocking 17 minute set and OMD, who played sing-along classic tracks such as If You Leave and Enola Gay to flocks of sunburnt and drunk fans in the middle of the afternoon. To add some icing to the cake, I had a lovely country fried steak after this show, and then we went and saw Matt & Kim. Seriously people, it’s days like this that forces you to go to Austin every year.

Norgaard by The Vaccines

Men Without Hats – Safety Dance, SXSW

First and last time a conga line forms at a concert I go to, probably. What an amazing show with the most confusing crowd ever.

Men Without Hats – Safety Dance 93 by popdjdysh

Empire of the Sun

As visually mind blowing as you expected. The carnival meets space travel meets thundercats show that is Empire of the Sun was about as visually stimulating as you can get. It even made me ignore the fact that I was in the Sound Academy for a brief moment. That in itself deserves some massive recognition.

Art Brut’s Storytelling

Art Brut is one of my favorite live bands – all their shows seem fresh and you can really tell the band wants you to have a good time. The leader of the group is Eddie Argos, who sometimes like to go on a tangent. Sometimes that tangent involves breaking off in the middle of a song and telling a ten minute story about going to a museum that somehow leads to the entire Mod Club jumping up and down. Sometimes that happens at NXNE. What a great moment.

Art Brut – Modern Art by everybodystalking

Part 2 to come at some point.

Concert Review: Miami Horror, September 13, Sound Academy

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | Leave a comment

Toronto – Opening for Empire of the Sun was another Australian synth-pop outfit – Miami Horror. The band had previously headlined a sold out show at the Mod Club in April. Due to the early start time of the headliners, the four piece outfit from Melbourne had the unfortunate task of opening up a show at 8pm to a rather sparse crowd. I made a note of that on my tweet.

Undeterred by the small crowd, Benjamin Plant, his singer Josh Moriarty and the rest of the band soldered forth an energetic set consisting of tracks off the band’s debut album Illuminations. To say Josh Moriarty has got moves is an understatement of epic proportions. The man knows his guitar poses as well as anyone I’ve ever seen. The spin? yup. The machine gun? yup. The play the guitar behind your head move? yup. On your knees? yup. Crotch in photographers face? yup. He’s got it all.

Miami Horror’s energy went a long way into transforming the semi lethargic opening band type crowd into a semi dance party. Their hit tracks – I look to you, Holidays and Summersun definitely struck a chord with the crowd and I even had a girl who looked like she had just started college ask me what the band was. Since English is my second language, I sometimes have trouble with my R’s so I think I said ‘Miami Whores’ which elicited a semi unfavorable response from the lady. I quickly rectified this by typing out the band’s name in my phone and showing her the real name, much to her relief. Her dad then protectively pulled her to the side and punched me in the face. One of the previous three sentences is a lie, I’ll let you figure out which one.

Anyways, the band ended off their set with the track Holiday. While the opening slot lacked the same amount of energy and love Miami Horror showed in their initial show here, they were still entertaining and easily won over a large number of new fans. A great achievement considering the circumstances.

Sometimes by Miami Horror (Official)

I don’t know why I quoted myself in this article, but like Whitney Houston said.. It’s not right but it’s okay.