words: Megan Henderson // photos: Sarah Rix @sarahrix
“Any Gang of Youths show will leave you feeling invigorated, inspired, and quite possibly in love…”
To get an idea of the fan base behind Gang of Youths, all you have to do is take one look at their current Say Yes To Life tour to see that they’ve successfully sold out all 21 shows of the Australian leg, including a whopping eight shows in Melbourne alone.
If you’ve been to the Forum Theatre, you’ll know it’s pretty magical in itself. But pair that with one of the most exciting bands in the Australian music scene currently, and you’ve got yourself something incredibly special.
The night was kicked off with singer songwriter, Charlie Collins (ex-front woman of Tigertown), who slowly eased the growing audience into a comfortable groove while she graced our ears with her smooth-as-butter vocals.
By the time 9:05pm struck, the floor of the Forum was packed with adoring fans, eagerly waiting to hear those first few chords of whichever song was going to open the set. A spot lit David Le’aupepe appears centre stage in his usual all-black attire and a guitar, and teases a stripped back version of “Fear and Trembling”.
The roar from the audience is already loud enough to nearly drown out Le’aupepe’s voice as the chorus hits, and everyone around me is full of the life and energy, pulsing through the room. The atmosphere is already vibrant, and we’re only halfway through the first song of what will come to be a nearly 2-hour long set.
A few songs deep, and Le’aupepe addresses the audience, telling us that just moments before this, he was in a state of panic back at the hotel due to a lost voice. He laughs it off, telling us that the show could possibly be a little interesting as he’s dosed up on vocal steroids, to which the crowd shows him we don’t mind with yet another huge roar of appreciation. For a man with a lost voice, he still sounds phenomenal, and has the crowd hanging onto every single word.
The rest of the set comprised of just about every song from their latest album, Go Farther In Lightness, and a few tracks from their earlier work. Having seen Gang of Youths live a few times before, I was pleasantly surprised to see a few of their mellower and more intimate tracks make it to the set list, such as “Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane” and “Keep Me in The Open”. I was even more pleasantly surprised to hear “Riverlands” – a track they haven’t played live for nearly five years.
Any Gang of Youths show will leave you feeling invigorated, inspired, and quite possibly in love with David Le’aupepe, and not to mention the rest of the band. They play with their absolute hearts and souls, and are so in tune with each other on both a musical and personal level. It is clear to see that Gang of Youths comprise of five best mates, and not just five guys who happen to play in band together.
This particular show definitely had a special feeling to it. Not only because David was battling with his vocals, but because of his ability to speak in a way that resonates with every person in the room.
He spoke of love and death, pain and perseverance, and shared experiences that struck a chord with everyone in one way or another. When David Le’aupepe talks – everyone listens. And I know there would have been people in that room who shed tears that night listening to him speak.
After a quieter and very intimate moment with just David on the piano, the rest of the band returned to the stage. They played the intro to “Let Me Down Easy” – easily the favourite of the night.
Le’aupepe is known for his dance moves, particularly during this song, and has the crowd dancing along with him as he gyrates and flows across the stage, occasionally sharing a boogie with the rest of the band.
We’re inevitably treated to “Magnolia”, and even an impromptu cover of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”, which almost hails the loudest sing-along of the evening.
Before long, and after a three-song encore, we say goodbye to Gang of Youths as they join arms and take a bow, and leave the stage as “Shout To The Stop” by The Style Council begins to play. The crowd isn’t done dancing yet, and it’s hard to resist grooving to the track, so David comes back out onto the stage to share one quick last boogie, which is definitely enjoyed by the crowd.
Gang of Youths are a force to be reckoned with. Their music is poignant, raw and beautiful, and touches on emotional issues that are very real and hidden for a lot of us. It is because of this that so many people adore them, and this has got to be one of the most exciting times to be in the Gang of Youths camp as they climb their way to the top, fans supporting them every step of the way.