Empire of the Sun entertains in technicolor

Sharlene Celeskey, Contemporary Culture Editor, Puma Press

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Some of the best concerts are those that you attend without any expectations or only vaguely familiar with their songs. That was the case on Apr. 18 at Comerica Theatre in downtown Phoenix. I would have missed the Australian band, Empire of the Sun, if a friend had not suggested I go see them.

When David Limon invited me, and said, “Empire of the Sun is Pet Shop Boys meets Boy George,” he was spot-on. Not as complex or innovation as classic ‘70s music, ‘80s new wave is often written off as a joke as critics fail to give it credit for being fun and upbeat. When I saw Empire of the Sun on the Jools Holland’s show on MTV Live I found them intriguing. I was surprised to discover this electronic glam new wave band was formed in 2007 since they were only now catching on in the United States.

I sat in Comerica Theatre open to the musical experience. When lights started strobing on the stage, and a video of a circular disc appeared and began moving and evolving until it looked like an alien trying to escape I knew this was no ordinary show. Violet and blue smoke filled the stage while the drummer played a basic dance beat adding to the anticipation. When a quartet of metallic clothed dancers, two with oversized sheer wings, appeared on stage I was hooked. I heard screams from the crowd, when the singer made his grand entrance down the stairs singing “Friends.”  His elaborate shiny sculptured headdress gave him a look of someone from another world. Immediately I jump up and swayed and danced to tunes that made me feel good. Although, I had only heard their hits, “We Are the People” and “Walking on a Dream,” I liked each song the minute it started. Jamming to the music, I heard influences from Prince to Duran Duran to Morris Day and the Time to New Order to Depeche Mode. I also heard a band that had created their own style of lively music.

I was intrigued and in awe at the extravagant costumes and basic stage set that came alive with a light show and videos. Everything appeared extremely well planned out and inventive. Even more impressive was how they achieved this without loads of equipment, racks of clothes, dozens of dancers and a multitude of props like today’s female pop stars use.  I felt the positive vibe of the astounded audience around me as I grooved to the music eagerly waiting what would come next.

Front man Luke Steele, a highly proficient singer songwriter and musician, played keyboards and guitar during the show.  He had full command of the stage as he regally walked around in robe type costumes. His voice sounded reminiscent of pop singers from earlier decades which perfectly fit his compositions.

Empire of the Sun’s exit was as dramatic as their entrance. Columns of hazy smoke intermittently shot up from the stage during their last song, “Alive.” As the smoke intensified, the song ended and lights came on and revealed the performers taking a bow.  Next dramatic background music filled the auditorium.  The stage lights went off and Steele made a grandiose exit before the others walked off amid the prismatic clouds of smoke that now engulfed the stage.

Departing Comerica theatre, I saw a crowd composed of hipsters, preppies, comic nerds, fashionistas, and families. The attendance was composed of a variety of ages with the majority being 20 something. I was intrigued that this concert brought together a mixture of different races, ages, and genres and boundaries were taken away when everyone became one applicative audience.

This was one of the most enjoyable concerts of recent years, full of fun, surprises, catchy music and plenty of visuals to awe over. I would definitely recommend this band and would go see them again.

1 Comment

One Response to “Empire of the Sun entertains in technicolor”

  1. Helen Kroll on May 28th, 2017 2:25 pm

    This article is one of the most accurate and well written articles I have seen in awhile. I appreciate Sharlene’s honesty and description. So refreshing!

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Empire of the Sun entertains in technicolor