Birds of Tokyo at The Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane, Wednesday September 18, 2019.
Words | Tammy Whitelaw
Birds of Tokyo have become a band almost impossible to avoid, especially when footy season rolls around; the band’s high energy rock tunes and ridiculously catchy pop hooks lend themselves perfectly to television montages of tackles and teammate embraces. Their catalogue of hits has become the unofficial soundtrack to many a sporting event in Australia. Later this month the boys will play the AFL Grand Final Eve concert, followed by the Melbourne Cup Carnival in early November. Tonight though, Birds of Tokyo bring their Good Lord tour to Brisbane’s best new venue: The Fortitude Music Hall.
Originally booked to play a much smaller venue – The Triffid – the demand for tickets prompted a sizeable upgrade.
By the time the Perth band take the stage, the 3300-capacity room is buzzing – thanks mostly to the pre-show playlist of ’80s power ballads. “Welcome my friends, welcome to the show. Wow! Look at this room,” lead singer Ian Kenny exclaims. Early track White Witch sets the tone for the night, as setlist opener: the boys are here to rock, and not just for their new fans, but the old ones too.
The band have mastered the art of teetering perfectly on the fence between heavy rock band and pop rock juggernauts. In the space of a few songs, they can have the crowd swaying and singing along to their ballads, to banging their heads in unison. This is showcased perfectly when Ian and guitarist Adam Spark deliver acoustic ‘campfire’ versions of Circles and I’d Go With You Anywhere, before the rest of the boys plug back in to blow our faces off with Silhouettic and Brace.
Radio hits Plans and Lanterns receive the biggest response from the crowd (sparking phone torches and voices to fill the room), though it’s newer tracks Good Lord and Greatest Mistake that show us the direction the band is heading in with their (yet to be announced) forthcoming album. They even treat us to an unreleased song they’ve been debuting on this tour, The Two of Us. From first listen, I immediately know it’s going to be another hit for the band. (I’d even put money on it.)
Lyrically, the new songs address the harsh reality of Ian’s marriage breakdown, showing us a man at his most vulnerable. They say the best songs are born out of heartbreak; if that’s true, Birds Of Tokyo’s next album is bound to be a corker. Judging by the reception of the new songs, the album has the potential to catapult them into the musical stratosphere reserved only for the mega-bands.
As I leave the venue tonight, I begin to wonder how anyone thought this show could be contained in a venue like The Triffid. And I don’t just mean the size of the crowd – the sheer size of the band’s sound is monstrous. It seems touring in support of Bon Jovi last year has morphed Birds of Tokyo into a stadium-sized band. After 16 years together, This Fire Birds of Tokyo have lit is well and truly ablaze.