On the 10th Anniversary tour of their Walking On A Dream album, Australian synth-pop duo Empire Of The Sun emptied their barrel-load of kaleidoscopic imagination and transported O2 Academy Brixton back to the alt-dance weirdness of one of the most creative pockets of recent music memory.
Tonight’s show is a dynamic performance from a band that carved out a niche soundtrack that kick-started a wave of electro through the indie world and beyond. Lead signer Luke Steele and his sidekick Nick Littlemore specialise in all things fantastical. Tonight this was brought to the Academy as they flooded it with visuals that swirled and shimmered, leaving the crowd mesmerised.
The signature over-the-top headdresses and gowns of Steele, teamed with the theatric visuals, created a spectacle that wouldn’t look out of place as part of an early noughties video game promo. There is an animation to Empire Of The Sun, including their dancers who at times move with such fluidity, they too look out of this world. At one point, Steele spends an entire song with his back to the crowd. He turned to sing at an image of what seems to be his space-age, other dimensional lover. Singing and slamming his guitar so dramatically, the narrative came alive and drew the London crowd in, as on the surging ‘Delta Bay’ and the genre-bending ‘Swordfish Hotkiss Night’.
At times, this set seemed to over-reach in its ambition, with the cute indie-dance beats that the band became famed for being lost by broken glitch sounds and visuals that at points felt like they were created for a stadium rather than the Academy.
Empire Of The Sun at their breathtaking best comes when Steele puts his preoccupation with his theatrics aside and shreds his guitar in a way that makes you wonder why his guitar playing is rarely at the forefront of great guitarist conversations. The transportation back to the happy days of 2009 came through ‘Walking On A Dream’ and ‘We Are The People’, when the crowd could look back on underage drinking and plotting their own Project X. These songs are classics, born in a time when this Australian duo and MGMT were carving out their own electro alternative world whilst laying down the foundation for the EDM mainstream storm that followed in the years shortly after.
The show was a magical trip back to just one decade ago. It could be easy to sit back and slam them for having never massively developed their sound or branching out. Instead, through new tune ‘Chrysalis’, we feel the quirkiness and far-fetched imagination behind this group makes us want to celebrate the fact they have stayed true and not changed.