Birds Of Tokyo @ Enmore Theatre
It’s 2007 and a small Perth band have just released their debut album. Little did they know the album, Day One, would throw them into the spotlight, earning them 36 consecutive weeks in the top ten AIR Independent charts and paving the way for future ARIA charting and national acclaim.
Birds of Tokyo are no strangers to Australia. Between kicking around as a band for almost ten years, consistently releasing quality music and regularly hitting up the nation’s festival circuit, there are no surprises as to why the band has developed a cult following. However, with adoration and success comes extra pressure to perform and keep producing great music.
The Perth outfit’s latest album Brace raised a few eyebrows last month when it was clear they’d opted for a darker, heavier sound. The anthemic pop stylings of ‘This Fire’ and twinkly chart climbing ‘Lanterns’ tapped out to make way for driving melodies, murky guitar tones and vocals full of conviction. It was a necessary change that showed maturity and passion, yet some people just couldn’t wrap their head around it.
Last Friday night, it was time for Birds of Tokyo to face their biggest critics – their fans – at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre to put the new material to the test.
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Within ten minutes of walking into the venue, it was obvious that both the band and audience share a love of hearty, authentic music without any pretentiousness or elitism. The crowd was equally as enthusiastic about singing along to Daryl Brathwaite’s classic ‘Horses’ as they were to the actual set. They were unified before the headliners even stepped on stage, welcoming support acts Introvert and Strangers with utmost respect.
What I expected from the band and what they actually delivered were vastly different things.
Birds of Tokyo dominated the Enmore Theatre with supreme energy and a brooding undertone not too distant from Muse. Opening with ‘Harlequins’, the first track on Brace, was a fitting choice as it signalled a shift in pace, featuring a killer pronounced guitar solo.
This ran into ‘Gods’, which had a surprisingly theatrical quality to it and was accompanied by a backdrop of visuals ranging from storms to bronze statues. Everything felt a little exaggerated, but in a way fitting with the album.
‘Catastrophe’ was piercing live, and showcased frontman Ian Kenny’s powerhouse vocals tearing open against heavy riffs and screeching background samples. In fact, Kenny often stole the show with his passion and ability to connect with hundreds of fans just by standing at the edge of the stage moving with them. A special appearance from Hayley Mary amped up this interaction when the two performed their Brace collaboration ‘Discoloured’.
Naturally, there were the occasional fan favourites scattered through the set, such as ‘Broken Bones’, ‘Plans’ and ‘Silhouettic.’ Each flashback was received with success in their own way. ‘Anchors’ stood tall with its uplifting choruses and mass crowd singing, whereas ‘Lanterns’ jarred with a strange space odyssey outro, 80s synths and purple laser beams.
Birds of Tokyo are far from those artists who carelessly churn out album after album. Instead, each song released seems considered and hand sewn with experience and emotion – something that fans don’t take for granted. Although Brace is notably different to previous releases, its roots still lie in strong, ambient rock.
The band has come a long way since 2007, yet their relevance to Australian music has never been stronger, with this show proving that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a chance to showcase that growth.
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Watch our studio session from last year with the band here, otherwise flick through the rest of the show highlights below.