Starset + Sick Joy @ Shepherds Bush Empire, London

 February 13th 2020
Photos and Review by Rebecca Bush

First up on the bill tonight are grungy rockers Sick Joy.

A talented three piece from Brighton, there’s a real nostalgic feel about watching these guys play, like being catapulted back to those grungy alt 90’s days.

The music is a real culmination of all things great about the genre with great hooks and a dynamic to and fro between hard and soft.

Singer and guitarist Mykl has a great edge to his voice that really lends itself to the mood they are projecting, and bass player Danny has a great stage presence and dynamic.

Backed up by energetic and powerful drumming by Martyn, it all comes together in a tight set that starts the evening off nicely.

Tonight’s headliners clearly have quite the show mapped out for us tonight: starting off early at 8.30, it seems we are in for a real treat.

As smoke billows across the stage, the big screen lights up and their cinematic aesthetic bursts into life. With their post-apocalyptic cyberpunk-esque attire, they make quite the impression as soon as they appear on stage.

Opening track ‘Manifest’ is simply beautiful and encapsulates their style and image perfectly, it’s like watching something otherworldly! There is a real depth to the music with all the elements they have, including an impressive string section comprising a violinist and cellist.

Aesthetically there is so much to appreciate it’s like watching a movie!

The back story the band have created and the organisation they speak of is brought completely to life, with transmissions on the big screen and amazing light displays.

Singer Dustin Bates perfectly presents his vision; his vocal is powerful and full of emotion and he looks every bit the part, as do the whole band.

They all have such a presence and hold character throughout whilst Dustin reaches out to the crowds in order to bridge the gap and connect.

If you wanted to immerse yourself even further into the experience, they further use their theme of space and technology with an augmented reality app which adds a deeper dimension to all of your photos and videos – there are galaxies and stars enhancing them!

This is an atmosphere that can only be experienced by seeing them live. Their music videos are wonderful but they really don’t have the impact that being here creates, so even if you are familiar with their works it’s still a completely new experience.

I’ve not seen a production this stylised and constructed, all set to such a stunning score.

Stand out songs include ‘Where the Skies End’ – a lyrically beautiful song of hope, faith and determination – and ‘Other Worlds Than These’, which speaks of society and of the lies we are fed and are conditioned to accept as truth.

It surely is extremely powerful stuff and needed perhaps more than ever in today’s fragile times.

There is a real feeling of connection between the crowd and the band, and although it is a fictional story they have created, it parallels society and our dreams of a bright future and speaks to the human condition in a wonderful way.

To come away from a show with food for thought at this depth is rare and it is a real treat.

I strongly recommend you get yourself to a demonstration and immerse yourself in their world – you wont regret it!