Ten Deep(-ish) Cuts We’d Kill To Hear On Empire Of The Sun’s 2024 Aus Tour

12 June 2024 | 1:34 pm | Ellie Robinson
In Partnership With Frontier Touring

We’re playing on Hard Mode, too: no ‘Walking On A Dream’, ‘We Are The People’ or ‘Alive’.

Empire Of The Sun

Empire Of The Sun (Credit: William Barrington-Binns)

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It was on August 30, 2008 that pop music changed forever. With a built-in fandom from Nick Littlemore’s self-titled PNAU album dropping just under a year earlier, he and Luke Steele debuted Empire Of The Sun with the instantly iconic single Walking On A Dream, pricking ears with its infectious chorus and club-ready beat (which led to the track being certified Platinum 12 times over in Australia) and keeping eyes locked on themselves with their deliciously gaudy, over-the-top outfits.

Since then, Empire Of The Sun have only continued to soar – after the titular Walking On A Dream album cemented their legacy in October 2008, follow-up Ice On The Dune took them to new heights in 2013, before Two Vines infinitely broadened their musicality in 2016. Now, eight years later – and after months of rumours and their own cheeky teasing – the duo will return with their most ambitious record yet, Ask That God, primed for landfall on July 26 via EMI.

They’ll follow it up with an epic national tour towards the end of October, hitting the stage at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney (Eora) on Thursday October 24, then the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne (Naarm) on Saturday October 26, the Riverstage in Brisbane (Meanjin) on Tuesday October 29, and finally the Red Hill Auditorium in Perth (Boorloo) on Friday November 1. Tickets for the lattermost show just sold out, but limited spots remain for the first three dates – head here to secure yours (and act quickly, because we can almost guarantee they will sell out).

Empire Of The Sun’s live show is something you really have to see to believe; reviewing a Sydney show of theirs last February, Mick Radojkovic wrote for TheMusic.com.au, “The sound in the grand old Enmore was sublime, the light show as glitzy as you'd hope, and the dizzying array of outfits and dance moves from the dancers kept us on our toes.”

Ahead of their return to Australian stages, we pored through Empire Of The Sun’s entire discography to weed out the ten songs we believe would truly elevate their live set. And for the sake of keeping it interesting, we’ve avoided the most obvious cuts – it goes without saying they’ll play Walking On A Dream, so there’s no point in giving it a spot on our wishlist. The same goes for the duo’s other smash-hits, like We Are The People and Alive (both of which have racked up four Platinum certs Down Under), and nothing from Ask That God (since it wouldn’t make sense for them not to play the singles from the album they’re touring in support of).

1. Half Mast

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Half Mast was technically released as a single in 2009 – and it fared pretty well with fans, going on to be certified Gold – but the version that made waves was dubbed (Slight Return), with an updated beat and moodier production. The original track is leagues ahead: it’s charged with a more buoyant and nostalgic energy, brighter synths and vocals that really shimmer in the mix. The original Half Mast is a blast of musical euphoria, and would undoubtedly shine in Empire Of The Sun’s new setlist.

2. The World

Though they’re best known for ultra-colourful pop tunes primed for the dancefloor, Empire Of The Sun have always had a psychedelic streak, best exemplified on their debut album by the gauzy and hypnotic deep cut The World. Lowkey percussion undulates with a gently strummed acoustic guitar to create a droning, almost meditative beat that ebbs and flows perfect with Steele’s downright beautiful singing (the high notes he manages to hit on this track are legitimately some of his all-time best). Every great live show needs a “chill” moment, and this is the single best track Empire could deliver it with.

3. Breakdown

You only need to look at Empire Of The Sun to know they’re weird as fuck – and that’s, like, half of what makes them so great. When you breeze through the Walking On A Dream album, it’s kind of instinctive to single out Swordfish Hotkiss Night as its de facto “weird” song – and it’s definitely the quirkiest song on there, but it’s not the most exciting when it comes to musical experimentation. That honour lies with Breakdown, originally an iTunes-exclusive bonus track before the album was reissued in 2009, which stands out with its bassy, propulsive rhythm and glitchy stabs of synthetic brightness.

For this upcoming Australian tour, three of the four shows (sorry, Sydney) will see Empire Of The Sun playing gorgeous outdoor arenas, flanked by idyllic fauna and lit by the stars. We imagine all the weird and wonderful sounds of Breakdown soundtracking a wondrous night of open-air excitement, and our hype for the shows immediately surges.

4. Tiger By My Side

Our last pick from Walking On A Dream is the smoky and charged Tiger By My Side, on which Empire Of The Sun fully embrace their ‘80s synthpop influence. With a slick of sleazy disco influence, the roaring electric guitars and hot-cold contrast in Steele’s vocal delivery make this such an incomparably lively track, and one that feels perfectly suited for a live performance (especially if Steele and Littlemore will be flanked by a full backing band).

5. Concert Pitch

Walking On A Dream remains Empire Of The Sun’s biggest release, but it was their 2013 follow-up that really saw them galvanise their sound, building on their disco-tinged synthpop base with belting hooks and primary-colour rhythms that in 2024 feel more “modern” than most of what we hear on pop radio. Concert Pitch is a perfect example of that, carried by glittery synth leads that stick like chewed gum to hot pavement, and Steele’s emotively charged vocals delivered with truly mesmerising aplomb.

6. Surround Sound

Insofar as it pertains to Empire’s club bangers, the tippiest top of the echelon is undoubtedly reserved for Surround Sound. Its heady, ever-so-tastefully bitcrushed rhythm pulses like strobes in a seedy dive where good decisions go to die, and the beat it’s laid over canters on with determined energy. It’s all tied together with the sensual flair of Steele’s delivery, making the track feel at once insular and elastic – the kind of sweaty 2am jam that in the hands of a band like this, could translate perfectly to the communal expanse of an arena.

7. Friends

Friends is the epitome of a synthpop anthem: it’s bright and boisterous and charged with euphoric energy, but like flaky sea salt sprinkled on a rich choc-chip cookie, it’s mellowed out with just a hint of melancholy. To that end, the simple chorus and bouncy 4/4 candour make it instantly adaptable for a concert crowd, like it was tailor-made to test a dancefloor’s stability.

8. Digital Life

On our dream Empire setlist, Digital Life comes in right after The World, somewhere towards the end of the set: after the latter track mellows us out and ushers in a warming sense of calm, Digital Life works to keep the chill vibes flowing, retaining an intimate mood but imbuing it with a twinge of pastel colour. It’s not so much a “relaxing” kind of energy, but it brings us back down to earth before the band deliver their epic final salvo (the explosive triple-hit of Alive, We Are The People and Walking On A Dream).

9. Zzz

Don’t let its title fool you: Zzz is one of the liveliest songs on Two Vines, again channelling Empire’s love of glittery ‘80s disco. It feels like the perfect fold to recent comeback single AEIOU, gelling with that track’s pseudo-existential smokiness and club-y feel.

10. On Our Way Home

Released as a standalone single at the tail end of the Two Vines era, On Our Way Home often gets ignored in the Empire catalogue – the band themselves have only ever played it live once – but we’d go as far as to argue that it’s one of their best songs. It’s driven by a prickly, kaleidoscopic lead that simmers and swells as the track progresses, a rousing chorus and some of Steele’s most bewitching vocals. It might not be a banger, but On Our Way Home is nevertheless strong and engaging, and it deserves justice in Empire Of The Sun’s live show.



Thursday October 24 – Eora/Sydney, Hordern Pavilion
Saturday October 26 – Naarm/Melbourne, Sidney Myer Music Bowl
Tuesday October 29 – Meanjin/Brisbane, Riverstage
Friday November 1 – Boorloo/Perth, Red Hill Auditorium (SOLD OUT)