Live Review: Birds Of Tokyo, Aerials

21 December 2015 | 1:24 pm | Jimmy Sky

"The band make it clear they’re still at home as a world-class touring act."

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Eaton's Hill Hotel sits alone on a winding road, lit up like a scene out of From Dusk Till Dawn.

The décor is modern and lacks Mexican vampires, but it does boast a taco stand. It is here that Birds Of Tokyo have chosen for their latest Brisbane appearance, and it does not disappoint. The venue is purpose-built for entertainment, accentuated by beautiful roofing inlays, nightclub house lighting and balconies facing a central stage. The early crowd are milling and drinking and the room fills quickly.

Before long, a vast, bombastic, electronica-inspired sound captures the space. Green alien light hits a suddenly blacked-out stage as Aerials take the floor with a big distorted chord flourish and thunderous kick drums. That the group has recently returned from a tour is evident in their slick, well-rehearsed entrance and immediate presence. Guitarist Tristan Chu’s staccato riffage washes the room as singer Jackson Walkden-Brown's high end version of a New Order/Husker Du vocal bleeds into an enormous and flashy mash up of big beats, fat bass and overdriven octave harmony. There is a sad, emotive element in their melody underpinning what would otherwise be described as powerful electronica-influenced post-rock. Sonically they’re an anthemic modern fusion of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Franz Ferdinand with a heavy twist of The Killers, but like most bands worth watching they project a unique and impressive sound of their own. Aerials' set features a number of recently released pieces including Symptoms and Firefights, finishing with new single Restless. The audience is clearly impressed and makes their favour known as the band exits.

The room is now at capacity and expectant. A sudden Star Wars theme heralds the arrival of Birds Of Tokyo as all ears fill with the sound of applause. Strobe lights are out early in the piece, adding to the drama of heavy indie-rock. Singer Ian Kenny welcomes Brisbane amid immediately familiar lyrics from Weight Of The World while gesticulating and pointing over the heads of the front row. He cajoles the crowd, telling them, "this song's about sticking with your friends and getting through tough times". They pump out When The Night Falls Quiet and the room sings along, every person immediately having a good time. Kenny has noticeably discarded the peculiar and endearing stage moves so characteristic of performances from years before. Instead he appears as an orator in touch with his people, purposeful and authoritative. Pointing, clapping, raising his fist at all the right moments, he leads the mob through Plans, and the room is his.

Across the spectrum there are touches of The Wall-era Pink Floyd, but ultimately it is a Birds Of Tokyo show, the noticeable difference being a preference for sweeter, straighter sing-along indie-rock, and incredible an audience connection. Rolling seamlessly through favourites The Saddest Thing, The Gap and Wayside, the band make it clear they’re still at home as a world-class touring act. Well-oiled and designed to entertain, Kenny’s falsetto is flawless, equalled by the performances of every musician on the stage. More hits spill forth in rapid succession including Silhouettic, Circles and Wild At Heart.

By this time, the room is dancing as people raise up their hands and voices. Sadly those interested in watching the band must desperately weave around a sea of mobile phone screens, but singing along unites all. The stage darkens once more with the promise of encore and another Star Wars tribute plays over the PA. The audience appears to miss the pun on Kenny’s striped sailor shirt as they launch into Anchor, but are extremely loud in their appreciation of closing hits Lanterns and This Fire.

Overall, Birds Of Tokyo have exhibited an incredibly well-rehearsed stage show with impressive lighting and sound production. While there was little room left for shock or surprise tonight, it was nonetheless an evening of anthems, which was quite all right with a very satisfied audience.