When deciding to see a live show, my thought process follows two paths. I will either see a show because I find the music inspiring and poetically melodic, or because the artist knows how to entertain. Empire of the Sun, known for their electronic new wave music, falls into the entertainment category. Walking into the venue, I knew that I was not there to be lyrically stimulated, but to watch a fully rehearsed performance. I was thrilled to finally experience the live version of their 2008 hit singles “We Are the People” and “Walking On a Dream”, which had become the soundtrack to my summer that year. The performance of both songs exceeded my expectations, and left my memory of those songs intact… and possibly loving them even more.
The Australian band formed in 2008, and is most notably known for their double-platinum album, Walking On a Dream. However, members Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore originally united as Pnau, which then transformed to Empire of the Sun a year later. In June 2013, almost five years later, Empire of the Sun released their second album, Ice On the Dune, with the song “Alive” creating some momentum in the electronic music world.
Although I was expecting an entertaining show, I still had no expectations of what was to come. Having watched a few of the band’s music videos, I could tell their appearance was inspired by artists like David Bowie and Roxy Music. Nevertheless, when Empire of the Sun made their extravagant entrance on stage, I was surprised to say the least. Wearing a large headpiece resembling that of a crown, lead singer Luke Steele emerged on stage with smoke machines and dancers all around. I had not been to a show with live dancers since I attended Britney Spears in 1998. Were the dancers necessary for Britney Spears? Yes. Were the dancers necessary for Empire of the Sun? Definitely no. I was not sure whether to focus on Luke Steele, or the four dancers who were lacking coordination skills throughout the entire show.
On the other hand, I was impressed by the connection Empire of the Sun had with the audience. As the show began, everyone left their seat and raced to the front of the auditorium in anticipation for the band to holler “Hey Vancouver!” and then start the beat. Luke Steele happily walked down into the aisles, allowing fans to sing into the microphone and dance side by side. It was refreshing to see an artist not use the stage as a tool of power, but rather an experience created exclusively for the fans. The dynamic between the band and the audience worked harmoniously. There was a sense of equality between Luke Steele and those bellowing out the lyrics to his songs. The audience played as great a part supporting the show as Empire of the Sun did providing genuine entertainment.
Overall, my experience was positive. I was a mere acquaintance to the music of Empire of the Sun, but felt I came out with a friendship based on respect. They valued the importance of their fan-base, and I appreciated them for who they were.
Check out the Vancouver Weekly Facebook page for more of Alix’s shots from the Empire of the Sun show.