Photo credit: Sheldon Ang Photography
Around The Sound recently sent Sheldon Ang and his trusty Box Brownie to the Perth Concert Hall in search of Birds of Tokyo and the WA Symphony Orchestra, this is what happened…
The Conductor weaves her wand like a protagonist of a JK Rowling classic, orchestrating a magical spell of an acoustic sensation.
The bows slide up and down, sideways and under, intuitively synchronising with the other members in an acoustic orgy of mesmerisation.
The beautiful world of physics comes into action tonight with the wave energy of strings transmitting through the bridge and into the body of the instrument, casting the wonderment of classical sounds across a hall so rich in history. And so it seems, the lights from the above are hypnotised by the magic wand as they dance gracefully while painting awed faces with their spectrum of brilliant colours.
Second by second, the music grows, as if the audio and optical displays are teasing each other in this four-minute chapter, finally culminating in the tenor vocals from centre stage, “Brace for the end…of everyday disillusion… we’re seconds away… from critical retribution”, climaxing with an orgasmic shiver during the dramatic rendition of Brace…
For fans of the Perth-based Birds of Tokyo, the preconceived notion of such a nonconforming fusion with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra wasn’t too surprising, but they were still quite blown by the spectacle.
For the curious – and especially for this writer, tonight’s performance at the Perth Concert Hall was a celestial experience, a journey that’s likely to remain in the subconscious memory bank for quite some time.
The night was sparked into life with the rousing WASO performance of Uno/Broken. Hardly a word was uttered by the crowd, who sat mesmerised by the stage centrepiece and compelling blue lights sweeping across the floor. A minute into this foreplay, the Birds graced the stage, to the polite rapture of the fans who were mindful of not puncturing the mood ignited by the engine room.
For the occasional fan, Plans was a familiar sound, coming second into the setlist. A smash hit that was recorded for the self-titled third album, which remains their most successful single to date – peaking at number 11 on the Australian Singles chart, subsequently nominated for ARIA Song of The Year in 2010.
The effect was poised and poignant, overriding the alternative rock that the Birds are known for, with the fluid vocals of Ian Kenny oozing a soothing, tingling effect.
Other commercial favourites were Good Lord, Two of Us, I’d Go With You Anywhere before closing with Lanterns. Vanessa Scammell, the conductor for the night stood imperiously and elegantly on centre stage, leading the charge with her cast of musicians on violin, viola, cello, double bass, horn, trumpet, trombone, bass trombone, timpani, percussion and harp. And if it wasn’t for the brilliant vocals of Kenny, we would’ve forgotten that tonight was about WASO supporting the Bird of Tokyo. One key omission was guitarist Adam Spark – presumably stuck in the eastern states, with keyboardist Glenn Sarangapany taking the opportunity to shine as the multi-instrumentalist for the night.
A spectator next to me by the name of “Nadia” asked, Did the Birds of Tokyo originally record with an orchestra for their album? No, said I. I think they should she replied.
That is not to say that the Birds of Tokyo is mind-numbing on their own – far from it based on the feedback from their recent performance at Fremantle Prison a week prior, and from the legions of fans across Australia. But tonight, the Birds took flight, into the stratosphere, thanks to crescendos and diminuendos, the dynamic, cueing beat and tempo orchestrated by the Western Australia Symphony Orchestra.
Metallica, KISS and many bands have experimented with this concept. If cost is not an issue, every band and artist should flirt with the musical symbiosis at least once in their lifetime.
Consider it as a musical pilgrimage.