Seeing Gang of Youths live wasn’t like attending your regular gig; it was an experience that healed the soul and brought people together united in love, compassion and faith. In our current climate, it can be hard to find a band that brings people together in a way that is not limited by political sentiment or subculture. Gang of Youths brought us together on a human level at their Adelaide show on their tour, ‘Say Yes to Life’. We were united in the beauty that was David Le’aupepe’s transparency and dedication to make the world a better place. As told by the front-man himself, no matter who we were in that room, we were united by the genuinely beautiful underlying notion of “this totally radical idea of hope… everyone can find hope, [and] take heart in that hope”.
Opening act, Charlie Collins, were the perfect introduction to Gang of Youths. Their high energy stage presence, combined with guitar solo’s and the incorporation of a harmonica brought their tracks such as ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘Mexico’ to life. Charlie Collins reflected on a series of personal realities when she introduced herself to Adelaide, but the most touching was her dedication to her sister. Combined with their punchy lyrics, their melodies spread through the acoustics of Thebby and helped the audience sway into a magical evening.
Gang of Youths, after walking on stage to a roar of cheers, opened to one of their infamous tracks, ‘Fear and Trembling’. With the gradual crescendo came the silly dancing audience and the charismatic leaping on stage by all band members. You couldn’t help but notice drummer, Donnie Borzestowski’s childlike beaming grin behind the kit, and lead guitarist, Joji Malani’s effortlessly cool strumming to the introductory song. ‘What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out’ followed, and did justice to Adelaide’s pride and joy, Thebarton Theatre. Throughout the venue, the sound of guitar solos filled the arena and was the best hype song imaginable.
The band then chose a more calm tone for the following songs, ‘Keep Me In the Open’, ‘L’imaginaire’ and ‘Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane’, all from their 2017 album, Go Farther In Lightness. The transition from the band’s more invigorating songs to their melodic and instrumental songs was testimony to their skills as a united band. Standing back and letting these three songs wash over me was one of the most mesmerising experiences, and created a vibrancy that cannot be described with words. To lift the mood, there was a tribute to Bruce Springsteen through the cover of ‘I’m on Fire’, with the crowd absolutely frothing the cover of the rock and roll legend.
The performance of the song ‘Persevere’ was obviously really special to the Gang of Youths - when discussing his grandparents moving to Australia as migrants, and the loss of his father, Le’aupepe thoughtfully said “I’ve been thinking about perseverance a lot on this tour… [sometimes] we lose all sense of hope and humanity, but we as people are built on perseverance'“. The combination of true honesty between the audience and the frontman eliminated the barrier between ‘them’ and ‘us’, and created a group of people sharing both pain and love simultaneously. This honesty was followed with ‘The Heart is a Muscle’, where David reflected on the loss of his father, stating “my father taught me how to love without apprehension. To accept difference - political, philosophical, social… The [heart is the] most powerful, enduring, muscular body”. And I couldn’t help but shed a happy tear with a silly grin.
Credit must be given to the lighting crew; every single cue was well thought out. Whether it was the spotlight on Le’aupepe during his solo song, ‘Persevere’, or the wild strobe lights throughout the encore, the technical skill could not be faulted.
We were reminded of the reality of the most confusing, brilliant, tricky, and magnificent thing we will ever face as people - life, through ‘Let Me Down Easy’, ‘Mongolia’ and ‘The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows’. These three songs are debatably their most famous, the perfect contrast to the soft nature of the previous songs. With David’s swaying hips, infamously seen here, the positive and fun notions of these upbeat tracks reminded me that despite hardship, there is always time for a good laugh, a good beer, and a good boogie.
With the echoing of the crowd, ‘encore’, the Gang returned with massive energy for ‘Vital Signs’ and, of course, ‘Say Yes to Life’. With a humble bow, a sheepish wave, and a standing ovation, we said goodbye until next time. Gang of Youths taught me that when you combine a group of people, not through push pits and violence, but rather through love and honesty, you can create something truly magical. It was a reminder I think a lot of us needed.
Review: Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide. Sunday 18th November. Gang of Youths ‘Say Yes to Life’ Tour.