LIB recap: Basking in the multi-sensory joy of Empire of the Sun

Luke Steele of Empire of the Sun performs during the Life is Beautiful Festival in downtown Las Vegas Sunday, Oct. 27, 2012.
Photo: Steve Marcus

A number of green lawn chairs sat oddly in the middle of the Life Is Beautiful walkways during both days at the festival, but they were a smart addition for those who needed a break walking the large footprint.

Sunday night, however, Empire Of The Sun fans found an even better use for those chairs: as stools to stand on during the electro duo’s set. During “We Are The People” and “Concert Pitch,” the guy to my right mounted his chair carefully, dancing with eyes closed, taking in the sounds of the duo’s glittery, bassy synth pop.

Before long, a gray-haired man, easily in his 60s, followed suit. It was almost as surreal as what was happening on stage, and from the looks of it, he loved every minute. Like a theatrical production from Cirque du Soleil, guitarist Luke Steele and synth player Nick Littlemore dove into the set with wardrobe changes at the top of every song, while backgrounds inspired by psychedelic New Age artist Alex Grey morphed into seascapes with icebergs, jellyfish and futuristic imagery similar to the popular sci-fi game Mass Effect—and that’s only what appeared on screen.

The dancers’ costumes were even more surreal, varying from fish-like Animorphs to Mayan warriors. After the 2008 hit “Walking On A Dream,” to which they saw the biggest crowd response, Littlemore shouted “Let’s hear it for Lou Reed!” commemorating the legendary Velvet Underground lead singer who passed away early Sunday morning, then smashed his guitar. It was a false ending, though, as Empire returned for a one-song encore performance of “Alive” before really calling it quits. While The Killers drew the biggest crowd of the night, headlining the largest Downtown Stage at the same time, it’s doubtful any other performance came close to Empire Of The Sun’s multi-sensory experience.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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