Reviewed on Thursday May 16

Demonstrates developed technical skills incorporating technical fluency? Check. Performs with a sense of personal expression and an understanding of solo/ensemble techniques? Check. New Empire was every HSC music teacher’s dream. Parts memorised to perfection, head bangs on cue and decked out in colour-coordinated navy, black and white we-are-simple-but-oh-so-mysterious attire, they breezed through their 2011 release Symmetry.

But even the angelic voice of frontman Jeremy Fowler, who strummed away with force enough to unhinge his suspenders from his skinny jeans, could not draw restless middle-aged eyes away from the hypnotic swirl of a glass of cider and whoops-forgot-to-eat-first banter. Still, jazzy vocal inflections, catchy riffs and sing-along melodies washed down well with the band’s warm harmonies and sugary lyrics. Fowler put it best with the lyrics “…like a train on time” – quite hit and miss. Mostly miss.

Spirits sank as the crowd sank spirits and dawdled awkwardly around The Standard. And then, with an explosion of light, Tyler Glenn was unveiled in an appropriately festive fluorescent yellow jacket, chiselled chin turned up at the crowd, silver hair flung back and both hands gripping the lit-up mic stand.

Spearing into the anthemic ‘Moving in the Dark’, charisma cascaded through the room and drenched the crowd, who could only manage one response of “Set fire….” in between gawking at the violent brilliance of the light display cloaking Neon Trees.

Animated without sacrificing authenticity, the Utah four-piece had the crowd jiving along to ‘1983’, Glenn’s husky tones reminiscent of old mate Jon Bon, as he nailed every note with a golden hammer voice – a feat entirely unaffected by microphone acrobatics. Alarmingly infectious gyrating ensued as Elaine Bradley thundered out on the kit.

Then the ratatat beats came to a standstill, replaced by Glenn seated at the Roland, the crowd mesmerised as he flawlessly crooned out ‘How Long Till You Surrender?’ Rhetorical, but confusing nonetheless, as it had been obvious from the first note that Neon Trees had the crowd wrapped around their little fingers.

“And if anyone says any shit to you of any kind…” was Glenn’s preamble, before launching into ‘Everybody Talks’ and the chart crushing, stage-shattering ‘Animal’. The verdict? Glenn put it best: “No, I won’t sleep tonight.


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