maddiedrake
21st March 2022

Grand Entrances and Great Hair from Gang of Youths at Albert Hall

Live review of alt-pop ensemble Gang of Youths’ recent Albert Hall appearance.
Grand Entrances and Great Hair from Gang of Youths at Albert Hall

Ever heard of Gang of Youths, the indie rock/alt pop group all the way from Sydney, Australia, fronted by a guy with great hair? Well you have now, because last Sunday I ventured all the way out to the Albert Hall to see them on their tour for recent album Angel in Realtime. Tickets were acquired with a soft stroke of luck at the very last minute. I message my friend Tabi, my most honourable sidekick for the evening and a perfect accomplice to steal ideas off and pass on as my own, and we set off first to the Thirsty Scholar and then on to the gig.

The opening act is Tom A. Smith, a seventeen-year-old who plays guitar pretty well but is let down by a lack of band preventing his songs from having much variation. As a result the songs pretty much all blend into each other. He’s got one of those slightly squealy scrapey teen-boy voices that makes him sound like all the other squealy scrapey teen boys, and he’s always giving it the (scrapey) top twenty percent of what he’s got, which, again, makes everything sound the same. He would fit really nicely into this year’s Truck festival line-up, which is not necessarily a compliment or an insult. One of his songs has a Fugazi-esque pause in it that I was genuinely impressed by, except that I was less impressed when he did it a second time, defeating the point. Unwaveringly consistent, he says “Cheers,” after every song.

Main support is Charlie Collins, who says she’s here to “break up the sausage fest”. The style of her act is very similar to the first except she’s better, Australian, has a mullet (big points from me if you’ve read any of my other articles), and is playing a semi-acoustic Fender Telecaster. She serenades the crowd with an as yet unnamed song about her ex-boyfriend and suggests that she might just call it “c*nt”. Towards the end of her set she does a cover of ‘Zombie’ that is two or four bars too long—you should never be noticing when a song’s too long. Still, I find it a bit risky when people pick really famous songs to cover, especially when it’s got vocals as loved and iconic as Dolores O’Riordan’s, but she pulls it off and gets people singing along to boot.

Finally, the main event! I have been standing on my feet to long and they are beginning to hurt, but it seems worth it when Gang of Youths’ set opens with a xylophone solo. Meanwhile the rest of the seven-strong band walk on stage with frontman David Le’aupepe strutting around and doing what Tabi brands as “white girl dancing”. He gives me the impression that he thinks he’s the shit, which is only ever a great thing for a frontman. Tabi thinks he’s “quite sexy” so it is obviously working (saying otherwise would be an offense to Tabi’s standards, which shall not be considered too deeply here). Their first song was probably my favourite just because I liked the entrance so much—if a band can pull off a truly fantastic entrance you are usually entranced for at least half a set solely by the initial promise, and this promise was a pretty big one.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of Gang of Youths: it’s stadium rock. Songs that don’t have much of a purpose except to get a (big) room full of people singing along, and get a (big) room of people singing along they do indeed—most memorably ‘The Heart is a Muscle’.

Maddie Drake @ the Mancunion

Suspense is built and appropriately riotously released, but this also means songs can be formulaic to the point of eye-rolling—represented best by the six-minute ballad ‘brother’, whose melody repeats. And repeats. Admittedly ‘brother’ is saved from the no-frills-or-really-anything-else song writing by the story Le’aupepe chooses to tell, but he probably could have told it a bit better if he’d told it a little shorter.

In making comparisons Tabi and I agree that it’s very Coldplay-esque; ‘like Coldplay in their emo phase’ she suggests. But it’s better, I say. And he’s sexier, we say at the same time. The sexy Le’aupepe himself is far from alone on stage and the entire band looks like they’re having the time of their lives. Apparently Jesus is on drums and he’s good! Although a talent for rock and roll is maybe unsurprising from someone who is famously a rock roller.

Between songs Le’aupepe charms the crowd, telling us all how wonderful it is to be ‘loved in the North of England,’ which sounds a little bit like something he says to all the girls. Still, on the whole the band are dramatic, the showmanship is great even though at times it seemed a little contrived, and they sounded good in the gorgeous gilded cave that is the Albert Hall. If you like them (or Coldplay) I’d recommend them to you in a heartbeat, preferably in the biggest venue you can find and before they disappear back to the other side of the world.

 


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