As the afternoon sun drew behind the clouds and the heavy rain beat down on the street, the doors to the historic Enmore Theatre were opened for the first of two sold out Empire of the Sun Sydney shows.
It’s been 5 years since the Australian band, fronted by Luke Steele, performed on home soil, so you couldn’t help but feel like this was a special occasion.
As the crowd filed into the venue, it was glaringly obvious that Empire of the Sun had not only retained fans from their inception, but had gained fans throughout the years, some of which were probably only babies when Walking on a Dream was first released. Even though EOTS released their first album in 2008, the crowd was brimming with punters of all ages.
As soon as the show begins, it’s not hard to see why the band has held such a wide audience captive for so many years. From the very start, the energy was high octane. Electricity fills the air as the lights finally go down and other worldly visuals appear on the back screen. As the music begins, the backup dancers walk across the stage, their silhouettes showing off the shape of their costumes, of which could be straight out of a science fiction movie.
Finally, Steele, recognisable from just his silhouette, makes his way to centre stage with his guitar slung casually over his shoulder. Drummer Olly Peacock and guitarist Ian Ball join Steele on stage and moving in unison to the beat with the dancers, they open the show with Standing On The Shore, a synthy hit from their first album. Not quite recognisable at first, the beat kicks in and familiarity washes over the crowd, giving them a taste of what’s to come over the next hour. While Steele remains the main character of the show, Peacock and Ball add stylistic flourishes to the music that would be vacant without them.
The set list is a healthy variety of the band’s discography, including one of Steele’s solo projects Listen To The Water, a song he tells the crowd he wrote while he and his family were staying in a log cabin in California during the Covid pandemic. Steele occasionally stops the show to talk to the crowd, mentioning the pandemic a few times, mostly to point out how much he’d missed Australia and playing music to a live crowd. He stated that in the height of the pandemic, he’d promised his kids they were going to get back to Australia. Luckily for EOTS fans, this was a promise he kept!
The band’s biggest hits are sprinkled through the set list, the first coming 5 songs in. We Are The People starts and the crowd roars. There are people all over the mosh climbing on their friends’ shoulders, while the entire crowd jumps to the beat.
Coming in third last, I was disappointed when Walking On A Dream started to play, knowing it wouldn’t be the song to close out the show. The whole package of music and visual elements coming together and the vibe emanating off the crowd really felt like a finale.
When the real finale of the show starts and the discernible sound of Alive starts to play, the electricity of the crowd is palpable. I rejoice in being proven wrong in thinking I knew what song should close out the show. The bass thumps through everyone and the chorus kicks in, Loving every minute ’cause you make me feel so alive. The crowd knows every word and they sing it back to Steele while he runs wildly around the stage, giving us every last bit of himself.
The common thread throughout the whole show can only be described as quintessential Empire of the Sun. Every facet of the show is littered with elements of the band’s personality. From the various costume changes to the glittering lights and visuals that could have easily passed as a standalone show. This wasn’t just a display of the band’s musical talent, but a clear exhibition of their creativity and an example of what a very specific vision looks like when it comes to life. We can only hope that this is only the start of a new chapter for Empire Of The Sun.