It’s hard to deny that they’re one of Australia’s biggest rock acts, and right from the opening moments of ‘Fear and Trembling’ it wasn’t hard to see why. Instead of the piano-led opening to the song – which also opens their latest album Go Farther In Lightness – frontman Dave Le’aupepe took to the stage with an acoustic guitar, settling the crowd into a false sense of comfort.
And as soon as the song opened up, it was clear the night was going to be one to remember. Continuing with the album’s tracklist, the band ripped through ‘What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?’and ‘Atlas Drowned’. You’d be forgiven if you were already wondering if the crowd and the band would be able to sustain this energy for the next two hours.
When the haphazardly-hung curtain backdrop finally fell to welcome ‘Keep Me In The Open’ the night really opened up. Not even a lyric stumble could stop Le’aupepe, though he did have a laugh about it, acknowledging how nervous he was – a fact that’s hard to believe when looking at the stages they’ve been rocking all over the world.
But the last time they’d played this stage was five years ago, supporting Cloud Control, and the reviews were less than favourable. “Jarring”, “occasional signs of promise” and “over-the-top stage antics” were all descriptors of that set, so here witnessing how far Gang of Youths have come was truly awe-inspiring.
While Le’aupepe remains the focal point of the performance – whether he’s shredding on his guitar, strutting around the stage, or stood still showcasing his incredible vocals – it would be a disservice to the rest of the band not to mention just how tight they are. Every moment is on point, every peak perfectly timed, and every lull filled with enough room to breathe.
Taking the stage solo, with nothing more than his piano accompanying him, the trio of ‘Go Farther In Lightness’, ‘Persevere’, and ‘Kansas’ provided the perfect mid-set breather, while showcasing the sheer strength of Le’aupepe’s vocals and musicianship and ensuring all the emotions were flowing around the room.
It was the final two songs of the set though – clearly the biggest, and most favoured moments of each of the band’s albums – ‘Magnolia’ and ‘The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows’ that had the crowd using up every last ounce of energy, voice, and emotion they still had left in them.
After such a euphoric close, it was strange that the band came back with ‘Still Unbeaten Life’ and ‘Vital Signs’. It seemed to pull the energy down and continued the case for arguing about the need for encores in the first place.
But that was soon to be forgotten, and with the final shouts of “Say yes to life!” the night closed in the way a Gang of Youths’ show always does – with euphoria, emotion, and a sense of knowing that no matter how shit everything might feel, maybe we can all feel it together.
Gang of Youths are truly world-class, there’s no doubt about it.
Highlight: My heart is warm and my cheeks are wet.
Lowlight: Realising more and more that encores are overrated.
Crowd Favourite: ‘Magnolia’.
By Gloria Brancatisano