Live Review: Gang Of Youths wear their hearts on their sleeves with emotional Melbourne show

“This world is full of cynics- full of people who don’t want you to be alive, to be real,” yells Dave Le’aupepe to a thumping heavy crowd full of youthful faces, each looking up at him adoringly, hanging on his every word. “Don’t let them stop you from living your life. Don’t let anybody ever tear you down!”

Since the 2015 release of their critically acclaimed debut album, The Positions, Gang of Youths have become one of Australia’s favourite live acts. Celebrating the release of their second studio album, Go Farther In Lightness, they kicked off their national tour last night at Melbourne’s Festival Hall and boy was it a tear- jerker.

Bendigo band Fountaineer opened the night with a sweet and compact set, followed by Sydney sweet heart Gordi, whose deep voice – reminiscent of Cher – was strangely tantalising. The way she played with audio manipulation made her performance intriguing and set the mood for the main act.

One by one each member of Gang Of Youths came on stage as a background screen showed balls of light float through the sky. Lead singer Dave Le’aupepe steps on and the crowd squeals, then after a drawn out intro, they get to business playing, “What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?” Straight away the crowd is frothing. Next comes, ‘Atlas Drowned,’ and I’m standing there thinking, ‘Omg guys don’t play all your good songs first,’ but then I realise that all their songs are good, and the way the audience sings along to every lyric I can’t help but think they agree.

“We played this venue three years ago as a support act to Vampire Weekend,” says Le’aupepe, “No one gave a shit. Now here we are playing the biggest show we’ve ever played.”

Le’aupepe is just something else. Yes the band is great; the guitarists, the drummer, they all work well together. But Le’aupepe – he’s everyone’s big brother. Calming, reasonable, protective. Before he even opens his mouth, his stage presence is demanding. He jumps on the keyboard to play an emotionally charged “Kansas”, then he pays tribute to his ex-wife who recently passed away, playing a song he wrote for her three years ago, called “Knuckles White Dry.” (I didn’t cry, I just had something in my eye).

Everyone feeling a little sad, he picks things back up with a sexually charged “Let Me Down Easy”, swinging his hips all over the stage, before going completely rogue for all-time favourite tune, “Magnolia”, jumping off the stage and getting literally lost in the crowd (the security guards couldn’t find him).

Go Father In Lightness centers on healing and being relinquished from suffering. This is evident in Le’aupepe’s performance. He takes such strong ownership of each song, as though letting each one of us listen in as sits in his room and pours his heart out to his diary.

Instead of feeling sorry for him, he cracks out songs like “Persevere” and “The Heart Is A Muscle”, radiating such a strong desire for hope, so contagious you can’t help but have faith that things will work out.

After what feels like a lengthy musical therapy session, the set appears to draw to a close with a massive performance of “Vital Signs” that sees lights flashing in all directions and kind of sending my head into a euphoric spin. Before you can recover the band come back on stage for a three song encore.

“Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane”, “Go Farther in Lightness” and “Say Yes To Life” deliver a sentimental end to the night. Like all good big brothers, Le’aupepe says good bye with a playful nudge in the guts and a humbling look that says, I’m proud of you guys.

“Life is short and difficult,” says Le’aupepe, “But it’s worth it, so say yes!”

The Go Farther In Lightness tour continues in Sydney, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth. For tickets and info click here.

Photo by Rebecca Houlden.