Birds of Tokyo

The last time Birds of Tokyo were in town was at the Entertainment Centre on a stadium tour in support of Muse. Their music does sound as though it is designed for such expanses. And given their impressive string of hits, managing to traverse both commercial and independent airwaves, the Perth outfit have amassed the kind of loyal following that would normally see them playing larger venues and headlining festivals.

Birds of Tokyo
Birds of Tokyo

But, following the band’s relocation to LA, the emphasis is on reconnecting with fans in more intimate venues, touring with slightly less fanfare in support of their Anchor EP. The Gov provided a perfect location for this, with the diverse, sold out crowd genuinely appreciative of the chance to catch the act in such a great pub venue.

“You guys sure know how to make a band feel welcome!” quipped fontman Ian Kenny, acknowledging this audience enthusiasm part way through the band’s tidy set on Thursday night.

Ecca Vandal at The Gov
Ecca Vandal at The Gov

Support act Ecca Vandal provided an energetic opening set that brought a raw edginess to the gig. With a powerhouse band behind her, it’s not hard to why the Melbourne based South African is creating some genuine hype. Her idiosyncratic music is difficult to classify. Sure, you can hear some strong influences: one moment it’s Bjork, then it’s the Yeah Yeah Yeahs; at other times there’s hardcore electronica or dubstep. But the blend itself is quite unique, a potent cocktail that really warmed up this mid-week winter crowd.

Birds of Tokyo took to the stage with ‘Weight of the World’, lifted from the current EP, before launching into their extensive back-catalogue. Over the band’s four albums, they have carved out a highly successful groove for themselves writing catchy, anthemic tunes: big choruses over power chords and infectious musical hooks. There were plenty of big moments in the set, provoking many an enthusiastic sing-a-long.

The new numbers depart slightly from the established script though, veering more towards industrial dance and chilled out electronica. While it’s good to see them mixing it up, in the live set this material doesn’t stand up quite as strongly, somewhat dwarfed by the epic tendencies of the earlier stuff.

The crowd were already in high spirits, but really found their voice with the lazy groove of ‘Wayside’ from the band’s debut album. This enthusiasm was carried through a long list of fan favourites including ‘The Gap’, ‘Broken Bones’, ‘Silhoutettic’ (with its contagious refrain of “There goes my baby”) and mega-hit, ‘Plans’. ‘Wild at Heart’ then rounded out the main set in similarly rousing fashion.

A mid-set counter-point to all this was ‘Boy’. With the band in stripped back mode and a rare acoustic guitar on stage, this was one of the highlights of the night.

Given the strong focus on slick production values on their recordings, there might be a question mark around whether they can live up to this as a live act. But in performance, Birds of Tokyo sound tight and crystal clear, everything coming through with unblemished precision. Kenny’s voice was particularly strong, faultlessly moving through some demanding melodies and never getting lost amidst the wall of sound.

After an encore that included the hardcore dance vibe of new track, ‘Touch the Screen’ and commercial hit ‘Lanterns’, the 80 minute set rounded off with the pounding rhythm of ‘This Fire’ from the most recent album.

Birds of Tokyo more than live up to expectations, delivering exactly what their fans want: evident in the smiles on faces as punters filed out of the Gov bandroom at the end of the night.

Reviewed by Matthew Trainor