Empire of the Sun at bit cloudy at the Music Box



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Photos, review by Laurie Scavo

Australian juggernaut Empire of the Sun are a festival band, and Wednesday’s show at the Music Box – the first of three-night, sold-out stand – was no festival, no matter how hard it tried.

Fronted by the Sleepy Jackson’s Luke Steele and fueled by the enormous buzz generated by shows in New York and at Lollapalooza, the electro-rockers commanded an enthusiastic L.A. audience with a spectacle that was part “Road Warrior,” part “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” and part Cirque du Soleil, complemented by a host of Robert Palmer dancers recruited straight out of “Tron.”

The show began with a stage filled with smoke and a stagehand coming on wearing a gas mask, beginning the apocalyptic imagery that ran throughout the evening, including explosions running on the background video screen. The dancers wore costumes that mixed and matched themes as if picked out from a movie wardrober’s closet – Roman centurions coupled with “Battlestar Galactica” cylons, mermaids with fish heads instead of tails, geishas in boxer robes, all dancing in a post-nuclear holocaust masquerade ball.

And while the spectacle was sugar for the senses, I couldn’t help but think I had witnessed this game before at Fischerspooner and Of Montreal shows of the past.

The deal-breaker, however, was the sound. To match the apocalyptic performance/art drag concept, the band’s sound aimed for a synth- and drum-heavy dance-club glam that essentially turned the show into a club remix of their CD. With the beat and synths cranked, the lyrics were virtually unintelligible except on a handful of songs like the epic “Tiger By my Side” and “Walking on a Dream.”

Like many, I would have traded the spectacle for vocals that I could hear and connect with.