The pro’s of getting the chance to review a show announced the day it’s performed is that you don’t have to wait two hours in line, in the freezing wind and rain, to see one of Australia’s best live bands. Luckily for me, I was reviewing, so got to bypass the 50m long line and headed up the stairs of Newtown Social Club to catch what was to be one of the most infectious 75 minutes of live music I’ve seen in quite a while. Gang of Youths were about to treat a local and loyal crowd to a career spanning set of hits, love songs, and just bloody good times.
Opening the show with an untitled and unreleased track, the show was off to a frenetic start with the absolute punk number getting the juices flowing as the rowdy and half-cut crowd got into the mood of things.
Driving to the show, I wondered why the band would play a free show. In the current climate where it’s getting harder for bands to make money from releases and touring becoming the real money maker, you have to question why you’d play a free show, when just months ago you played literally the next street down, to a room of 1600 people willing to pay to see you. My cynicism aside, it became apparent from the get-go why the show was being played: this was a thank you to the fans. As stated by front man Dave Le’aupepe, without the fans, what they’ve done so far as a band wouldn’t be possible.
Moving onto “Restraint & Release” the floor was bouncing, the sweat was dripping, leather jackets were being removed as swiftly as they were put on, and Le’aupepe’s hair was a mangled mess of rock-star glory. Letting the crowd know that ‘This show already feels more real than any other show we’ve played in the past year,’ it was refreshing to see the love reciprocated between band and fans.
My favourite song of 2014, “Poison Drum”, was up next as Le’aupepe showed the charisma he’s developed over the past few years as a front man. The first time I saw them was in the exact same venue in May 2014. I very nearly didn’t attend, having had to endure the joys of working in a bottle-o for nine hours on a Friday night; but that decision to witness one of the most raw sets showed that the band would definitely be bound for bigger things in the years to come.
With Max Dunn’s bass face going to level 9000, the set was hitting its straps just as the decision was made to slow things down and create some tender moments, as put so eloquently by Le’aupepe. Sitting down at the keys, Dave explained the premise for the next track, one that had only been heard by the band once before, and would be receiving its first public performance in a matter of moments. Titled “In Our Crowded Sea”, the track was the verbal representation of the last attempts to save the relationship that created the basis of The Positions. With only a couple dickheads to my immediate left trying to ruin the moment, the solo three-track set Le’aupepe was about to play showed the effects writing and experiencing The Positions firsthand had on the guy.
Following up with “Knuckles White Dry” and a shortened version of “Evangelists”, I was reminded of why I first began to like Gang Of Youths. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve played “Evangelists” in my car or on my laptop: it’s just bloody perfect. Fumbling over the second verse of the track, it was good to see the band were willing to play tracks from their earliest incarnation.
Playing the same track they debuted at Splendour In The Grass a couple weeks back, they followed it up with current single “Strange Diseases”. Welcoming the band back on stage and introducing all members to the crowd, the look of pure ecstasy on guitarist Joji Malani’s face as the crowd began chanting back the opening chords of “Strange Diseases” was something to behold. I think the only thing that would top this reaction would be a Premiership win for his Rugby League team, the Penrith Panthers.
Heading towards the closing stages of the set, the GOYs busted into fan-favourite “Magnolia”. With Le’aupepe embracing his inner Beyoncé and 1980’s rock god, an impromptu crowd wander left the fans begging for more. Choosing to not go out on the punk rock stylings of “Magnolia”, the band chose to close out the set with the highlight of recent EP, Let Me Be Clear’s “Still Unbeaten Life.”
After being harassed to come back for one more, the band returned with spiritual closer “Vital Signs”; in my opinion the most complete track from The Positions. Telling the crowd to go home and listen to Radiohead, they thanked everyone for turning up and proceeded to obliterate the stage.
For a band who has only realistically be in the gaze of the public eye for approximately two years, Gang Of Youths have developed a fierce and loyal following. As kings of the slow-build, lords of the dance and masters of their trade, the band have developed a live show that would make the best of bands envious. Call them what you want, but in reality in they’re all just legends.
Header Image: Mclean Stephenson.