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GANG OF YOUTHS @ RAC Arena gets 9/10


Gang of Youths @ RAC Arena

w/ Gretta Ray
Saturday, July 30, 2022

9/10

Any mention Gang of Youths and you will immediately think of the tall, dark, shaggy and handsome David Le’aupepe, his effortlessly creamy voice and slinky stage moves. Tonight’s show, the first arena show of their angel in realtime. tour, was a testament to the “gang” behind the man and the many talented artists that create and execute the Gang Of Youth’s live experience, but make no mistake it was still the David Le’aupepe show and the arena strong crowd were there for every note.

Gretta Ray

Triple j Unearthed award winner Gretta Ray was playing support for the tour, but her connection to the band doesn’t end there. In 2021 Ray covered Gang of Youth’s The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows for triple j’s Like A Version and after her set, she returned to the stage as backing singer for the band.

Ray and her own band opened with her new song Happenstance then warmed the room with album favourites, Human, Cherish and her version of Billy Joel’s Vienna. She made great use of the arena stage and catwalk, giving out as much energy as she could to entice the growing crowd.

Gretta Ray

Gretta thanked “the boys” for her inclusion on the tour and told us that when she released her first major single she received a lot of social media praise that boosted her confidence; Gang of Youths were one of the first to comment, sparking their friendship and musical companionship, saying that it has somehow come full circle and she is very grateful for that.

Finishing with the three-song punch-combo of Bigger Than Me, Drive and Love Me Right, the crowd was left delighted by her enchanting presence and performance.

Gang of Youths

The lights dimmed and Gang Of Youths took to the stage one by one with the marimba player initiating the extended intro to angel of 8th ave. There was a slight pause before the inevitable cheer as Le’aupepe appeared on stage and they all crescendoed in together, cueing the confetti canons. It was a fitting opening to the show kicking off with the first single released off the new album.

The stage was carefully and creatively constructed in a circle so that you could clearly see all performers. The drums at the back were accompanied by a percussionist beside him, marimba player stage left, backing singers stage right and an upright piano in the dead centre; leaving the other players free to move around the stage or onto the 50ft catwalk extending out into the audience.

Gang of Youths

There was no letting up of energy as they pumped up the crowd with the hits the man himself, The Heart is a Muscle and What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?.

Le’aupepe then introduced us to Seumanu Simon Matāfai, an Auckland native and choirmaster that provided musical direction and choral arrangements on the album. Matāfai sat at the centre piano and cheekily displayed his skill with a technically impressive classical piece morphing into Bohemian Rhapsody, then led the band into Let Me Down Easy.

Gang of Youths

Le’aupepe positioned himself at the end of the catwalk and gave his best John Travolta impersonation snapping his fingers as the disco’esque Tend The Garden dropped with the curtains revealing a backdrop LED screen as a giant mirrorball descended from the roof.

It was apparent that the arena show had been tightly arranged and produced, even more so when the crowd would call out a song and Le’aupepe would respond “I can’t go off script!” The show flowed and moved without a flaw from the audience’s point of view, though Le’aupepe commented that they needed to address the fast pacing of the show, being the first of the tour. He commented that he wasn’t used to the arena scale shows and that we should just pretend we are in a small dive pub venue, like Mojos. Stating that “If it’s a little rough, that’s because Gang of Youth’s is a little rough!” They weren’t.

Gang of Youths

Le’aupepe’s interaction with the crowd was a nice insight into his personality and depth, he displayed a humble down-to-earth and innocent demeanour in between curse words. Declaring that he is just a “boring Christian nerd,” he gave a gentle diss to those who vilify him for his Hillsong background.

Bringing things down a notch the band exited the stage leaving Le’aupepe sitting at the centrepiece piano. He gave tribute to Archie Roach who had just passed away earlier that day, honouring him with a touching solo piano version of Roach’s Took The Children Away.

Gang of Youths

The band gathered back on stage as Le’aupepe donned the banjo for Let Me Down Slowly. Achilles Take a Bow hit the next level with Le’aupepe going off the end of the catwalk and into the crowd, he made it about 30 metres in before turning back and barely making it back on stage, discarding a fan’s bra that he had acquired in the commotion.

Returning to the main stage he gave a short sarcastic spiel about getting shown up every time a band covers his songs for Like A Version; which served as an introduction for Gretta Ray to step forward. Ray took to the catwalk on her own and sang her version of The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows before the band joined in to finish the hit tune. In The Wake Of Your Leave was declared the final song and fans got their final chance to dance to its fast past and sing along to its choral chant outro. 

Gang of Youths

The band departed the stage before the audience could rise to their feet, feeling somewhat unceremonious. The crowd kept the chant going and called for them to return, and luckily they did or we would have missed the highlight of the show.

angel in realtime. was written after Le’aupepe’s father died in 2018, and the album is a tribute to him and what he left behind. Many of the songs centre around his family and the search Le’aupepe went on to discover more about his father’s past, uncovering that his father was born in Samoa, not New Zealand as they were told, and that Le’aupepe had two half-brothers that he didn’t know about.

The band returned to the stage with Ray and Matāfai gathering around the piano for the final two songs on the album. The beautiful hand of god was played and sung by Le’aupepe with the rest of the gang arranged around a microphone behind the piano like a choir. That flowed into goal of the century which built and soared before dropping into a reprise of hand of god as Le’aupepe sang the final lyrics “In a way, it’ll feel like, you were an angel in realtime.” With photos of his father Teleso Le’aupepe appearing on the LED screens, the audience got their chance to stand as the band did their final bows.

Gang of Youths

If you only know Gang of Youths from their whirlwind success and hit singles, take a deeper look into their albums and you will find a band producing music with emotional and artistic depth. Le’aupepe himself as a multi-instrumentalist, lyricist and songwriter is a powerhouse of talent with the voice of an angel. Their live show is proof of their skill while still remaining fun and engaging, balancing emotionally beautiful moments with good old pumping rock ‘n’ roll.

ANTHONY JACKSON

Photos by Linda Dunjey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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