To begin, if you’re reading this article before 9pm on Monday, go immediately over to the 9:30 Club and somehow get yourself a ticket to tonight’s sold out Empire of the Sun show. Don’t worry if you have to pay above face value, it will be worth it, trust me.
I’d been listening to the Empire of the Sun 2008 freshman album Walking On A Dream for about a year, having been introduced to them via my Ladyhawke – another Aussie music up-and-comer, Pandora channel recommendation. The strongly drum and synthesizer driven tracks combine effortlessly with lead singer Luke Steele’s brilliant, bordering on nasally, vocals. As a child of the 80s, I’m a junkie for electronic music and their 10 track album has become a staple in my music arsenal. Fortunately, I only had to wait until June for their next album Ice On The Dune and then until yesterday to catch them live.
Going into the show, while I was familiar with the group, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a live show. Their album covers feature the duo in elaborate costumery and David Bowie-esque make up, surrounded by landscapes and creatures straight out of Dune or the Ursula K. Le Guin novel The Left Hand of Darkness; the covers could easily be Labirynth or Legend or The Dark Crystal movie poster rejects, and their music videos continue this motif, especially their latest track “Alive.” All of this plus pictures of their U.S. tour, which just kicked off, had me definitely expecting a fair amount of pagentry, but as soon as the lights went down, it was clear that Empire of the Sun was going to go far beyond.
The show opened as one-by-one, five sparkling body suit fitted, astronaut hear gear wearing dancers jerked and flipped onto the smoke-filled, pink neon lit stage flanker by a ginormous black feather mohawk wearing drummer and a guitarist in the best gold Harem pants that have been straight out of MC Hammer’s closet. As a dancers eventually morphed from their individual dances into one choreographed dance, lead singer Luke Steele, slowly rose from beneath the stage in brilliantly shimmery emperor regalia complete with a two foot tall, golden headdress/crown and a kabuki eye makeup strip.
From that moment, the concert was on. There were multiple costume changes by both the dancers and Steele, and if I counted correctly, Steele donned at least 4 different crowns (silver, gold, white and blue). The dancers’ costumes were amazing, like straight out of the costume department from the Fifth Element or Demolition Man or a Ziggy Stardust music video. How they moved with such ease and agility I have no clue.
As the band took us through their setlist – which included tracks from both albums – and as the costumes changed, we were taken on a visual and sensory-based journey that travelled from space, to some terrestrial, Mad Max in Thunderdome locale, to the arctic wilds of Hoth back to the celestial place where the Emperor of the Sun resides. Steele’s guitar and vocal performance was superb and enrapturing, and his stage presence and dedication to entertaining the crowd was beyond.
Leaving the 9:30 Club, I was in awe of the production value of the show and immediately thinking of getting tickets to the next night’s show. The 9:30 Club as a terrific venue for most acts, in general, but it’s shows like Empire of the Sun, shows that focus on taking you to other place, where this small, yet extremely capable venue shine. This was a truly engulfing show and one that reminded me how amazingly fortunate we are to have the 9:30 Club.