Everything should have worked. The concept was innovative; social media savants winning tickets to secret concerts by tweeting, vineing and instagraming. The venue was Gotham Hall; a gothic and columned ballroom that felt like it has hosted charity galas of Schumacher’s Bruce Wayne before. The atmosphere and costumes were bizarre; a Venetian Carnival directed by Federico Fellini on ecstasy. It all should have been the perfect concoction for MTV and Intel’s “Music Experiment.” All that was lacking in quality was the band, Empire of the Sun.
The fantastical Australian glam-electronica duo have returned stateside to promote their newly released sophomore album, Ice on the Dune. Self-proclaimed “Emperor” Luke Steele and “Lord” Nick Littlemore brought their brigade of African drummers and flamethrowers, their band of backup dancers draped in glow-in-the-dark and rainbow designs, and their own cosmic costumes which looked like they’ve been ripped from the deck of an ‘80’s science-fiction card game. What was visual about their concert experience, was exciting. What was auditory, was not.
For many of their thumping songs, the musicians are just shadowy silhouettes upon the large screen displaying hallucinatory imagery behind them. For a Gorillaz or Phish concert, the spectacles are supplements. For Empire of the Sun, it seems they take precedence over the sound actually produced. Throughout their fifteen song set, the rhythm moved along with a monotonous pulsation which forced me to imagine a galaxy far, far away where the band’s sound had more reach. With both having 2008 debuts, many have compared the band to their brothers-in-glam MGMT. But fur jackets and face paint aside, Empire of the Sun just doesn’t have the same vision, range or ambition as the American duo. An MGMT show has multiple gears that the band can shift their sound to; Empire of the Sun has one. Loud and out of control.
For a majority of the concert, my brethren-in-forgetting-a-costume looked bored. However, the ones dudded up with masks and full body paint looked like they were having a ball, jumping with every throbbing beat. Encore song and current single “Alive” was a highlight, where it seemed everyone in the building had their fists up. And only until their catchy hit “Walking on a Dream,” did the audience actually attempt to sing along with the inaudible vocals, which just couldn’t battle with the blaring synthesizers and drum kits.
My suggestion for Emperor Steele and Lord Littlemore: spend less time on the eyeliner and noble titles, and more time on exploring a variety of sound. Keep the flame swallowers though. They were awesome.
– Dylan Brown