Luke Hemmings took us on a modern day nostalgia trip
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13.06.2024

Luke Hemmings took us on a modern day nostalgia trip

5 Seconds of Summer
Words by Juliette Salom

The lead vocalist and founding member of one of Australia’s most successful musical exports is back on home soil, and this time he’s riding solo.

“The last time I played here was ten years ago,” Luke Hemmings said as he leaned into the mic, fingering his guitar. Cue the chorus of audience screams and squeals for that unnamed reason that Hemmings graced the stage of St Kilda’s Palais Theatre in 2014. “I had a much better outfit on,” he continued. “Skinny jeans I reckon.”

 2014 was not just a time when skinny jeans reigned supreme, or lip piercings or bad haircuts, although all that is inevitably recycling back through fashion. 2014 the world over was the year of the boy band.

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And although Luke only uttered that magic acronym once in the entire show, sending the crowd into some kind of intoxicated frenzy because of it, Luke’s beginnings in famed Aussie boyband 5SOS (5 Seconds of Summer for the uninitiated) was the glittering elephant on the stage the entire night.

You could see it in the flocks of young girls in the audience that had probably dabbled in 5SOS in their teenage years, the pop rock boyband music of their youth merely a gateway drug to the all-consuming stardom that Luke made them addicted to. Now, just like those young girls who once fawned over those young boys, Luke was all grown up.

Nostalgia abounded at the Palais on Wednesday night. Naarm/Melbourne marked the first show on the Aussie leg of Luke’s tour, a tour quite aptly named Nostalgia For A Time That Never Existed. It was there in those once-5SOS devotees, now Luke Hemmings superfans; in the heritage details of the Palais’ domed roof; in the ex-boyband popstar that graced the stage; even in Luke’s supporting act.

Annie Hamilton, a musician from Eora/Sydney whose debut album is titled The Future Is Here But It Feels Kinda Like The Past, opened the night with what she dubbed ‘the bedroom experience’. That meant no backing band, no extra production, just a girl in her sequined bat wings with a guitar – exactly as she wrote these songs in her bedroom.

It’s no small feat to command a sold-out Palais Theatre by oneself on that massive stage. But from the opening bars of Panic to the closing bars of Fade, the almost 3,000 attendees stayed seated, captivated in a kind of hypnotising magic that Annie was making happen right in front of our eyes. Her set included old favourites, new favourites and even one of Annie’s personal favourites, Whirlwind.

Annie’s soaring vocals filled the room in some kind of vivid dream that encapsulated what the rest of the night had in store for us. Her ethereal indie-pop-rock sound isn’t as easily categorisable when you hear it in the flesh unless the category is luminous. She dominated the stage like it was her own, and crooned into the mic with the intimacy of all of us sitting in her bedroom along with her, hearing these masterpieces how they were written.

If Annie’s was the bedroom experience, Luke’s was more like the arena one. It started with screams. Everyone jumped to their feet immediately. More screams. Some squeals. Streamers exploded. More screams followed.

 

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A post shared by Luke Hemmings (@lukehemmings)

If Australia has an answer to the Harry Styles boyband member turned solo popstar, perhaps Luke is it. The crowd sang along to all the words and swayed their phone torches like flames in the air to light up the entire room. Luke became somehow even more lit up than he had been by the stage lights, and by his fans no less. 

Decked out in flared jeans and an oversized suit jacket, finished with a shirt he got from a Melbourne vintage store earlier that day (‘It’s a very cool city you’ve got here’, he admitted), while Luke’s aesthetic was hinting at a nostalgia whose origins lay somewhere in the popstars of the ‘80s, his sound was hinting at something more modern. 

Crowded with guitars and the chaos of frenetic drums, Luke’s music was pulling inspiration from all kinds of sounds pop music has borrowed from in the last decade or two. But when he leaned into the mic and crooned in that uniquely polished yet raw-around-the-edges kind of way that only ex-boyband members know how to do, it wasn’t just nostalgia he was tapping into but something wholly new and original. 

For the last song of his set, the energy had climaxed and the screams were their loudest and just before it was all over, the backing band members one by one peeled their way off the stage. What was left was just a guy with his guitar and a choir of devoted voices below that serenaded his own song back to him. If you’re a Luke Hemmings fan, this would have been a spiritual experience.

Throughout the entire show, I kept thinking that if I was a teenage girl again, then I would probably love this stuff. But that sentiment doesn’t even ring true. I’m very much not a teenage girl anymore. And I very much loved it anyway.

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