If the premise behind the Yahoo! On the Road series is to present some of the finest talent available to a series of locations across America, on Monday, May 20, Dallas might've scored a major upset. Twice.
Two stellar bands from Australia — Empire Of The Sun and Gold Fields — were surprisingly, alarmingly, good. And those fortunate enough to pick up tickets for the performance at Dallas's House of Blues saw firsthand that a band's albums, no matter how good they might be, simply can't duplicate the thrill and vitality of a solid live performance.
First up was the double-drum assault of Gold Fields, a young band whose new album Black Sun has already received exceptional reviews. Consisting of Mark Robert Fuller (vocals), Vin Andanar (guitar and vocals), Luke Peldys (bass), Rob Clifton (keyboards and percussion), and Ryan D'Sylva (drums), the group manages to combine the fluid melody of the best '80s Britpop — no small feat for Aussies — with an extremely rhythmic, heavily percussive base, offering a distinctive hybrid that's adrenaline-charged and always fully danceable. Running through a sampling of Black Sun's best tunes, most notably set highlight "Dark Again," the band unexpectedly threw in a cover of Underworld's 1995 hit "Born Slippy" and wowed the already enthusiastic crowd.
Even more mind-boggling was the set to come from Empire Of The Sun, who could do no wrong were they merely to play their music while standing completely stationary onstage — but they certainly didn't.
A surrealistic, theatrical presentation — familiar to those who've already seen them in previous shows — featuring lights galore, full costumes, dancers, and a video backscreen throwing up images mid-way between the climax of 2001: A Space Odyssey and that weird part of Willy Wonka we'll just call "the boat trip," the show bordered on the extraordinary. With a headdress — not just the headdress, a whole batch of the dancers' accessories as well — likely to unnerve anyone with a fear of pointed objects, the band's Luke Steele strutted around evoking a mythology that, while it may borrow from places, seems entirely his own. And who needs an explanation?
Fortunately, much of the band's terrific new album Ice on the Dune (out June 18) was performed — and it, happily, is marvelous. To say their performance was well-received would be a significant understatement; there's no one out there doing what they do at the moment, and the extraordinary effort Empire Of The Sun put into their work, their mythology, and their equally fascinating videos, makes them one of the best bands of the moment. Great, great stuff.