GANG OF YOUTHS @ Metropolis Fremantle gets 9/10

Gang Of Youths @ Metropolis Fremantle
w/ Ruby Fields, Fountaineer
Saturday, September 16, 2017

9/10

Gang of Youths are a band on the cusp of greatness. Following a huge year and the release last month of their sophomore record Go Farther In Lightness – a solid follow-up to their breakthrough debut – they’ve been playing sold out shows across the US, Europe and UK, where the Sydney group now reside. The boys returned home triumphant for a big venue national tour with their polished new set.

Metropolis Freo sold out awhile back, and the deafening packed room that greeted the headliners is testament to their rocketing popularity. They more than rose to the challenge, firmly stamping their authority on the night with a tight, anthemic, stadium-worthy rock show.

In support for the whole tour, starting at the rather early time of 6.15pm, were Victoria’s Fountaineer, who played a great opening set to a smallish crowd, who they made a definite impression on. The four-piece have just released their debut, and have an engaging sound in the emotional, post rock vein. Reminiscent of The National, they showed off rumbling rhythms, angular guitars, melodic keys and Anthony White’s deep vocals. They finished with their epic soaring tune I Will Become/Hinges On, the final track from their debut, that faded out with a recorded voice repeating an apt quote from classic novel The Outsiders: “I finally pushed myself up and leaned back against the fountain.” They’re a band with loads of potential, poised to become a regular name on the touring scene.

Sydney’s Triple J Unearthed winner Ruby Fields has shot to popularity off the back of a few catchy 90s style grunge, rocking teen anthems. Ruby belts out her vocals with conviction and plays a mean guitar. Backed by a rhythm section, she won the swelling crowd over with a nifty cover of Garbage’s Cherry Lips, the relatable P Plates and finished with her big hit I Want, which is a cracking tune.

By the time Gang Of Youths came on, the place was jammed and the excitement levels were at fever pitch. From the second they walked on stage to the orchestral strings of Le Reel, with a statement projected behind them acknowledging the traditional land owners, they owned it. The high-pitched screams went up as frontman, and born rock star, David Le’aupepe strapped on his guitar and stepped up to the mic.

Dropping into What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out? from the new album, he immediately exploded into action, and set about doing his best to make the photographers’ jobs hard, bounding around the stage in a blur of energy, screaming, tearing at his guitar and beating his chest.

Atlas Drowned is a big tune. It’s like a mighty mashup of old fashioned, anthemic Springsteen rock and roll, with the modern guitar and keyboard polish of Snow Patrol – an influence Fijian-born guitarist Joji Malani name-checked on his t-shirt.

The crowd were loving it and the band were feeding off the energy – Le’aupepe was in his element and really seemed to be taken back by the two levels of screaming fans in his face. He heaped praise upon Perth in-between songs, saying nothing would keep them away for long.

After an interlude of Le Symbolique, they breezed through catchy new cut Let Me Down Easy, Le’aupepe strutting and shimmying across the stage. When he’s free of the guitar, he can really work it.

With the focal magnetism of the frontman, it’s easy not to notice just how great the band are behind him. They’re a formidable, tight five-piece, with American-Korean Jung Kim swapping between keyboards and guitar, locking into the groove alongside Malani, drummer Donnie Borzestowski and Kiwi bassist Max Dunn who proudly sported a Dingo Flour T-shirt.

Their huge anthem Magnolia sent the crowd into hysterics, as Le’aupepe threw himself to the fans, crowdsurfing into the middle of the pit, before ending up back on-stage jumping around, doing his ‘single ladies’ dance, which had all the single ladies screeching. His looks and presence onstage somehow recall Michael Hutchence and Heath Ledger, while others online have half-jokingly compared him to a combination of Game Of Thrones’ Jon Snow and Khal Drogo.

But David Le’aupepe is very much his own character, and there’s no two ways about it. The guy has got it going on and oozes charisma and attitude as he strides around the stage confidently, performing his guts out and shaking his ass. His songs are unabashedly emotional and from the heart, and the powerhouse vocals are delivered with real passion and sincerity. Something missing from a lot of music these days.

Most importantly he writes great songs, the sort that seem effortless, fresh, yet familiar at the same time and conjure up great feelings and inspiration with a positive spirit. He talked about not letting critics, cynics and authority figures tear you down for your vulnerability. “The days of the nihilistic 90s bullshit is over.”

Another big single from the new album came with The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows sounding huge live, and they finished with the massive crescendo of Vital Signs. They’re definitely not a band with any indie hang-ups holding them back as they aim for the lofty heights of U2 and Coldplay’s stadium-filling rock anthems.

They were of course back for an encore, and you knew they were truly enjoying themselves, as they gave us four more. Starting more slowly with the majestic positive vibes of Do Not Your Spirit Wane and a beautiful solo piano performance of title track Go Farther In Lightness.

This blended seamlessly into the new album opener Fear and Trembling, which kicks in hard after a couple minutes, before fittingly closing the set with the album’s final track, the euphoric Say Yes To Life.

There is a resounding, powerful and uplifting message running through Gang Of Youths’ new music. While the debut may have been about dealing with personal things, this is as Le’aupepe has described it, his healing album, and it’s coming from a much better place. He knows life can suck, and he’s been through some shit but he’s here to tell you it’s worth sticking it out for, grabbing life by the horns and shaking things up. His real talent is articulating this so well in his lyrics, as the band do in their music.

The group are veritable force live, and it would be fair to say they’re not even at the peak of their powers yet. This is a band on the rise, and the sky’s the limit.

Words and photos by
ALFRED GORMAN

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