Birds of Tokyo Expand to Big Band Status With Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and ‘Birdsongs’ -
Birds of Tokyo with MSO at Hamer Hall 2023

Birds of Tokyo with MSO at Hamer Hall 2023

Birds of Tokyo Expand to Big Band Status With Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and ‘Birdsongs’

by Paul Cashmere on September 22, 2023

in News

There is something about the pairing of a rock band with a symphony orchestra that just works. When you couple the five members of Birds of Tokyo with the 50+ members of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra the orchestra it works exceptionally well, enhancing the dynamics. These songs we’ve known from the past two decades with given another dimension.

Ian Kenny, Adam Spark, Adam Weston, Ian Berney and Glenn Sarangapany of Birds of Tokyo integrated seamlessly with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Nicholas Buc. The central placement of the band in the middle of the orchestra surrounded by the orchestra musicians created a all-in-one interaction between the band and the orchestra.

It isn’t easy pairing rock band and orchestra. So many productions get the basics wrong at the start. For a rock band to work with an orchestra, the band’s drummer needs to be in synch with the conductor and this is how the ‘Birdsongs’ stage was arranged. Birds of Tokyo drummer Adam Weston and conductor Nicholas Buc were in constant eye contact as the two engines worked in unison. A band follows their drummer, an orchestra follows the conductor and for the two to connect the conductor and drummer must be in synch.

With those mechanics taken care of, it was time for the heavy lifting and the show could begin.

Birds of Tokyo’s MSO ‘Birdsongs’ event is a two-part concert covering five of the six BoT albums (nothing from the first album Day One), plus an extremely well chosen cover of the Johnny Cash cover of the Nine Inch Nails song ‘Hurt’.

There was lots of banter in-between the songs. Singer Ian Kenny and guitarist Adam Spark were clearly comfortable with their newly expanded big band. At one point, Spark even took himself out into the audience for a very up close and personal moment with the downstairs crowd.

Conductor Nicholas Buc also arranged for songs for the orchestra. Buc has a great track record with contemporary music having worked with The Whitlams, Eskimo Joe and Missy Higgins. He conducted a national tour for Ben Folds and he has arranged Australian productions of shows featuring the music of David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and George Michael.

Both sets features went backward and forward across 15 years of Birds of Tokyo with the earlier songs from 2008’s ‘Universes’ and 2010’s Birds of Tokyo’ placed in the first half along with the recent ‘Human Design’ material (2020). Act two was kept to the last 10 years, again with three more from ‘Human Design’ to give the show its sense of currency.

Birds of Tokyo’s two highest charting songs ‘Good Lord’ and ‘Lantern’ were left for last and this was where the MSO was at its most dynamic.

Check out this version of Lanterns by BoT and the MSO from 2021.

Birds of Tokyo and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra have two more shows tonight and tomorrow 22 and 23 September 2023.

Birds of Tokyo
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Nicholas Buc conductor
All arrangements: Nicholas Buc

Birds of Tokyo with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra setlist, 21 September 2023, Hamer Hall, Melbourne

Broken Bones (with Uno intro) (from Universes, 2008)
Plans (from Birds of Tokyo, 2010)
Unbreakable (from Human Design, 2020)
Circles (from Birds of Tokyo, 2010)
Train Wrecks (from Universes, 2008)
I’d Go With You Anywhere (from Playlist, 2015)
My Darling, My Son (from Human Design, 2020)
Silhouettic (from Universes, 2008)
Wild at Heart (from Birds of Tokyo, 2010)
Never Going Back (from Human Design, 2020)


The Greatest Mistakes (from Human Design, 2020)
Two of Us (from Human Design, 2020)
Anchor (from Anchor EP, 2015)
Hurt (cover of the Johnny Cash version of the Nine Inch Nails song)
This Fire (from March Fires, 2013)
Mercy Arms (from Brace, 2016)
Brace (from Brace, 2016)
Good Lord (from Human Design, 2020)
Lanterns (with Motionless intro) (from March Fires, 2013)

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