Empire of the Sun Whistler Stage, Pemberton BC, July 18

Empire of the Sun Whistler Stage, Pemberton BC, July 18
Photo: JPG Photography
How's this for a contrast: at the same time that alt-rock gods Soundgarden played their gloomy grunge hits over at the Pemberton main stage, Australia's Empire of the Sun thrilled partiers with sugar-spiked dance pop and glitzy, over-the-top theatrics at the Whistler Stage.

Frontman Luke Steele strummed his guitar from behind a spiked, futuristic podium, donning a floor-length black and gold cloak with silvery green face paint and resembling an intergalactic preacher. Alongside him, a second guitarist looked comparatively modest — something that can't usually be said about someone wearing glittery gold pants and an oversized necklace.

Every song sported euphorically bright pop hooks and relentless four-on-the-floor rhythms, sounding like MGMT at their most crowd-pleasing. The music, however, was secondary to the lavish stage show, which included colourful CGI videos and backup dancers whose elaborate costumes and intricate choreography changed with seemingly every song. At times, there were bright beach balls, T-shirt cannons, belching jets of smoke, and hugely billowing clouds of confetti. Between tracks, Steele repeatedly rallied fans with demands to "make some noise" and asked, "Are you still with us out there?" The answer, of course, was "yes."

The spectacle was comically grandiose, making for the day's most stunning visual display. Compared with Soundgarden, it was pure sun without any of the black hole.

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