Trippy as F***: Empire of the Sun live in London 2019
Empire of the Sun, known for their futuristic sounds and experimental concepts, skyrocketed to fame after their double platinum single, ‘Walking on a Dream‘ in 2008. This song as well as the debut album of the same name paved the way for their careers and formed two more successful albums, Ice on the Dune and Two Vines much to the surprise of critics. Now, more than 10 years later, they came to London’s O2 Brixton Academy to bring back the same euphoria they created 10 years ago.
After a painfully hour long DJ set which was just house music set against neon 80s adverts (highlight was the man behind me screaming “40 more minutes of this?!”), Empire of the Sun come out and play a crowd favourite, Standing on the Shore. I imagined this would be received with raucous applause but it was more like a tepid cheer. Standing two rows from the front, I was preparing to be squished in the crowd and amidst ferocious jumping and hands in the air. However, the audience, combined of 30-40 year olds were not interested in making a fuss, but were more concerned about becoming immersed in the experience. And an experience it was.
Empire of the Sun are not afraid to use all of the tools at their disposal. Smoke machines explode at the beat of the drum, lasers fill the whole 5,000 capacity room sending it ablaze with blue and red hues. Corny 90s Microsoft Windows screensaver graphics are projected on the screen as frontman Luke Steel shreds the guitar and two dancers electrify the room with outfits that wouldn’t look out of place in Blade Runner. Throughout Steel’s performance, you can see a man who is passionate about his work. Steel sings to a projection of a female vocalist during ‘Without You’ with full gusto and tries to get the audience moving on ‘Between Me and You’, a surprisingly unique cover of the Killers frontman Brandon Flowers’ solo album.
I’m typically not a fan of concept bands as they strike me as pretentious and although the Steele gave off a holier-than-thou vibe at times, you have to commend the lengths these guys go to give us a show. If you’ve read some of my previous reviews you’ll know if you just stand on stage and play your instruments that won’t go down well with me. So in that sense, I appreciated the level of effort from the crew members and the band for putting this whole show together, which did truly feel like a theatre performance at times. However, its one downfall was probably audience engagement. For having such animated music, there was very little movement from the audience which unfortunately, can make or break an experience. Although Steele did try at times, if there was more breaking the fourth wall with the audience, it would have elevated the show even further.
After playing ‘Walking on a Dream’, the band play ‘Alive’ for their encore. Perhaps an apt final song to end the show as the audience belts ‘loving every minute cause you make me feel so alive’ thus suggesting that the band has a ‘strong and stable’ future in store.