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.

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.

Concert Review: Empire of the Sun, September 13, Sound Academy

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | 1 Comment

Toronto – As Uncle Frank drove us in his minivan towards the barren wasteland that is known as the Sound Academy, we casually glanced to our left to see yellow tents pointing skywards with the sign “Cirque De Soleil” prominently featured all over the grounds. Dancers dressed in odd costumes frolicking around all night long? “That would be interesting to see, I thought”.

After witnessing Empire of the Sun‘s mind blowing audio/visual spectacular on Tuesday night, its fair to say I may have just gotten my own theatrical thrill.

One of my favorite shows, The Mighty Boosh, starts off with the line “Come with us on a journey through time and space” and that is exactly how I felt when Luke Steele took to the the smoked filled stage dressed as a lovechild of Ziggy Stardust, some random characters from the movie Stargate and an ancient African tribe. With video projections showing images of worlds away, Steele and his troupe of dancers spent the next eighty minutes barraging all our senses with color, movement and of course, music. Both the singer and the dancers went through multiple costume changes ranging from the weird (space aged geishas?) to the absurd (some kind of horse-dolphin hybrid? yes..)

Now all of these visuals probably wouldn’t of worked if the music of band was not up to par. Despite a rather small catalog consisting of one whole album, the band was able to construct a rather long show by creating highly dance-able extended versions of their hit songs such as Standing on the Shores and Half Mast. Some of the filler tracks on the album did make it’s way into the show, but whenever the music didn’t do it for you, all you had to do was just watch everything going on. Time passes quickly. Luke Steele proved himself to be a rather entertaining lead, nailing a lovely guitar solo, having some nice banter (even bringing out his child at one point) and generally keeping things interesting on stage when he wasn’t play acting or dancing.

Our journey with the band ended with the track Walking on a Dream and just like that, they were gone. It was all over and we were back to reality where the colors suddenly don’t seem so bright and vivid.

Don’t let the high ticket price scare you away, Empire of the Sun is a show well worth experiencing. I can’t wait until they come back with another album and more material.

Without You by WalkingOnADream

Festival Review: Lollapalooza 2010, Grant Park, August 7 – Day 2

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | 1 Comment

Empire of the Sun

Chicago – Festivals are a bit like running a marathon for me – a marathon that involves damaged hearing and drinking beer.  What I’m getting at here is that I like to catch as much music as possible.  So there I was, on the second day of the festival, bright and early at 11:15 am.  I caught a band called MyNameIsJohnMichael, who I knew nothing about, but who apparently have a song featured on Gossip Girl.  They’re from New Orleans and they have a pretty good sound.  The band started when John Michael Rouchell decided he was going to write a song a week for a year, so I guess they’ve got a few songs in the can already for their second album.  After playing a slower song near the end of their set, Rouchell thanked the crowd for not taking off as often might happen if a band is too mellow during a festival set.  “Actually, they have nowhere else to go” said one of his bandmates in reference to their very early time slot. 

Next up were The Morning Benders, who impressed me with their early afternoon slot.  As I watched them, I thought, “Ricky was right, these guys do look really young.”  They closed out their set with “Excuses,” urging the crowd to sing along even though it was pretty early.  Of course, festival crowds are a lot more susceptible to singalongs than regular crowds so they complied. 

The Morning Benders

Next was a band who was on my list of must sees, having missed them twice during NXNE – The Soft Pack.  The San Diego band delivered a set of tight, poppy, garage rocky tunes that livened up the early afternoon and was probably the highlight of the day for me.  Singer Matt Lamkin has a voice that’s at times reminiscent of both Julian Casablancas and hot Snakes/Obits singer Rick Froberg.  As Lamkin introduced their last song, a new one,  drummer Brian Hill interrupted – “A new song, you never know what you’re gonna get.”  “It’s side A of Rubber Soul – in two minutes” replied Lamkin.  “It’s all blastbeats,” said Hill.  “I used to play in Carcass … just kidding, it was Deicide.”  I’d like to see these guys again in a smaller club setting.

The Soft Pack

It was during the first half of Grizzly Bear’s set that I learned an important lesson – Lollapalooza is not my living room.  While Grizzly Bear sounded good, their performance seemed a little bit too laid back for my tastes, especially after checking out The xx’s similarly laid back (and ridiculously packed) set.  While Grizzly Bear may sound just fine at home, they left me a bit cold – I just wasn’t in the mood for it, and besides, I knew there was zero chance that Michael McDonald would join them for “While You Wait For The Others.”  So instead, I checked out AFI, a band I have not listened to much over the years and whose post-hardcore screamo-ish alt rock is certainly not something I would listen to these days (though I will admit I kind of liked their 2003 album Sing The Sorrow).  This counterintuitive move paid off as they were just the jolt I needed to wake me up from Grizzly Bear hibernation.

AFI

After a little bit of Metric and a little bit of Spoon (I only saw one song, but it was “Got Nuffin’,” which is one of my faves from their new album), I figured I had to check out Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a band that’s been getting a lot of positive buz these days.  A lot of other people had the same idea too, as it was so packed  at the smaller Sony Bloggie stage that people were climbing into trees just to get a better view of the band.  Even though I was way in the back, I saw enough to know that the buzz is well deserved.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

As the time approached for Green Day’s headlining set, it was a choice between a guy in a bunny costume dancing to YMCA and The Ramones warming up the stage for them or Slightly Stoopid on the adidas MEGA stage.  Truth be told, I had to watch the guy in the bunny costume for a bit, but i checked out Slightly Stoopid as well, and well … they weren’t as stupid as I thought they’d be.  In fact, their reggae rock sound was kind of fun in a way.  They ended their set with a Nirvana cover, which brings me to a recurring theme for the weekend – cover songs.  These ranged from quite good (The Big Pink doing Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine”) to acceptable (the aforementioned Nirvana cover) to perplexing (Blues Traveler doing Sublime’s “What I Got” – not that I minded hearing it, but it seemd kind of like “Hey, we had a couple hits in the mid ’90s and here’s another song that was a hit back then.”) to kind of annoying (Green Day peppering their set wih little snippets of classic rock songs … still, it was kind of cool to hear the crowd sing along with “Sweet Child O’ Mine”)

Green Day definitely knows how to work a big crowd – they’ve got the big rock moves down.  I never really gave their last couple albums that much of a listen and really only wanted to hear them play their early ’90s stuff (and after I’d heard enough hits I did go over to check out the end of Phoenix’s set in time to hear a few songs including “1901,” which made me happy), but I’ve got to admit that those newer songs work really well in a big venue – there’s a reason American Idiot got turned into a piece of musical theatre.  They even followed Lady Gaga’s lead and had a fireworks display as part of their show.  In terms of theatricality though, perhaps the most visually interesting band of the weekend was Empire of the Sun, who played opposite Green Day and Phoenix.  With crazy images projected onstage, dancers and elaborate costumes, they certainly put on a great show.  Speaking of musical theatre, why weren’t the cast of Glee invited to play Lolla this year?  I’m sure that shit would have gone over huge.