Originally published on August 17th, 2010
Empire of the Sun at Outside Lands
Sunday, August 16th at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
As the sun was setting on the end of an eventful Outside Lands festival weekend, many concertgoers that came out to Golden Gate Park were headed towards the main stage to see Kings of Leon. However, further down the speedway at the Twin Peaks stage, Empire of the Sun was simultaneously closing out Sunday night. Festival attendees that ventured out to their set were quickly entranced in a haze of lights and infectious dance-inducing synth-pop grooves. Empire of the Sun’s use of lights, imaginative costumes, and acrobatic choreography sucked the audience into their psychedelic dream world of electro-acoustic beats and took them on a wild ride through their debut album, Walking on a Dream.
Empire of the Sun hail from Australia and is a collaboration between visionary frontman Luke Steele and electro-pop genius Nick Littlemore (who is not present on this specific tour). Both artists are originally from other bands, the Sleepy Jackson and PNAU, respectively, but they were drawn together by the vision of a new musical project that would push the boundaries of composition and live performance. Their set at Outside Lands is a stop on their first North American tour, with only a handful of other dates scattered across the map. Walking on a Dream was released in April 2009 and the band has since won much critical acclaim and the admiration from fans around the world.
From their first note, Empire of the Sun commanded the attention of the crowd as they assaulted the onlookers with a sensory overloading stage presence. Colorful masked dancers crept out in unison as Steele came to the middle of the stage in an elaborate headdress of protruding sunray spikes and a metallic suit of armor. They started off the night with the intertwined floating vocal sounds of “Standing on the Shore”, and then launched into a melodic and beat-driven performance of other tracks off their album. Performers on stage as well as dancing audience members worked up a sweat in the sea of LED lights and video screens.
Highlights of the set included the performance of the acoustic ballad “We Are the People”, where dancers aligned themselves with Steele at the front and mimicked his guitar strumming on rectangular neon prop instruments. “Swordfish Hotkiss Night”, a bouncing, chanting dance composition, featured the dancers in swordfish masks as they wiggled around like sea creatures under aquamarine lights. People were on their feet and dancing along to the catchy sounds coming from Steele’s guitar and numerous synth layers that had been expertly crafted together. The crowd left happy after the encore that featured a performance of “Walking on a Dream”, the band’s most well known single. Everyone exiting the park certainly seemed uplifted, and experiencing Empire of the Sun’s set was definitely a satisfying way to end a weekend of diverse and enjoyable music.