Review: Gang of Youths @ O2 Academy

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By Alice Loughran, Second Year Music

Alice Loughran reviews Gang of Youths at the O2 Academy on 9th March following the release of their new studio album angel in realtime.

‘Queue for Gang of Youths!’ Shouts a doorman, as I enter the queue on a mild spring evening. The Australian alternative rock band have a large fan base in Bristol and before the concert I am told to be prepared for an exciting night; I made sure to bring my dancing shoes.

After finding a good spot in the crowd, a charismatic boy takes centre stage whilst adjusting the strap of his cream electric guitar and tuning its six strings. ‘My name is Tom A Smith and I’m from Sunderland’ he exclaims, met with a warm reception from the crowd. He plays songs from his debut EP, which is aptly titled EP No.1, such as ‘Convince Yourself’ and ‘Wolves’. My favourite of his songs ’Could I Live With Being Fake’ is followed by some incredible audience participation for ‘Boltcutters’. Smith is an exceptional young talent who exudes confidence and charm. His colourful voice and guitar virtuosity light up the o2 academy in anticipation of the main event.

Credit: Alice Loughran

Six men suddenly burst onto stage clapping in unison to the opening song ‘angel of 8th ave’ from their new album ‘angel in realtime.’ They excitably grab their instruments behind David Le’aupepe which ignites the crowd in true indie-rock style. Guitarist Jung Kim sports a trendy beanie alongside Max Dunn on bass, both visibly immersed in their music-making. A bright red key keyboard is played by Tom Hobden to the right of drumming sensation Donnie Borzestowski. Under the shine of the flashing lights is new addition Louis Giannamore who joins Gang of Youths for their tour as a drummer, pianist, guitarist and electronic music-maestro.

The audacious lead singer demands attention in a bright Hawaiian shirt and screams ‘hello Bristol, we are from Sydney and thank you for having us!’ Without a second to breathe, they immediately begin ‘the man himself’. As I sing ‘I don’t know what to feel’ in the high energy chorus they create such an ethereal atmosphere that I feel I am at a place of worship with a group of preachers in front of me. The passion of which they perform is matched by the audience in the next song about the most powerful organ- ‘The Heart Is a Muscle’. Kim has moved to the keyboard and Hobden has picked up his guitar; I am in awe of the versatile musicianship on display.

‘Make sure to tip the bar tender’ shouts Le’aupepe before introducing the next song which just so happens to be my favourite. Following the loss of his father, grief has been a big inspiration for a lot of the bands’ music. ‘This next song is about my Dad’s garden which he spent 30 years building, the moral of the story is to look after your garden and ring your parents’. Hobden then begins to play the violin for ‘Tend the garden’ creating a danceable and euphoric soundscape. There isn’t a still person in sight as the band lead the movement with jumping and a lot of hair swishing. The mood is brought down by a piano duet by Giannamore and Dunn for ‘unison’. They play broken chords with synthetic voicing accompanied by bongos and acoustic guitar. The introduction is succeeded by an explosive recapitulation which is executed with precision and finesse.

Credit: Alice Loughran

The gig continues to feel more subdued with the performance of ‘spirit boy’. It delves their relationship with Christ whilst living in London away from the fame down under. Poetic guitar riffs soar across the vocal melodies followed by a gorgeous violin interlude by Hobden which is enhanced by gentle acoustic guitar strumming. The band exit the stage with just Le’aupepe left sitting at the piano. ‘Is everyone okay?’ He asks, ‘I’ve not been okay in years’. ‘The next song is about my siblings who I should probably give a call. Thank you so much for allowing me to grieve my father and for giving a f**k’. The nostalgic and emotional song ‘Brothers’ entrances the audience with soft vocals and simple chordal piano playing. Despite it being so stripped back, his voice fills the room bringing tears to all of our eyes.

Heart-warming applause concludes the previous song before a sudden breakbeat dance rhythm takes over in true Gang of Youths style. A surprising folk twist is created in the performance of ‘forbearance’; they make an ingenious dialogue between violin and decisive hi-hat syncopation. ‘Let Me Down Easy’ and ‘Magnolia’ follows which are arguably two of their most popular tracks about ‘dancing drinking and being good to one another’. Hobden bounces the bow off of his violin, much like the bouncing of Le’aupepe’s hair, whilst the band interact and shake their hips with each other. The atmosphere was energetic as each audience member dances eccentrically like they are alone in their bedroom. I credit the irresistible danceability of the band’s songs to none other than Borzestowski. He is the kind of drummer that you just can’t take your eyes off whilst leading the rhythm with complete style.

To close the evening they perform ‘in the wake of your leave’, ’The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows and a ceremonial encore. The band are not only outstanding musicians, but they are also blessed with an unforgettable stage presence. Between the frequent instrument swaps, Aussie banter and electric dance moves were messages of love and nostalgia. As a fan of the band, my expectations of the gig were very high. However, there is not a YouTube video or live recording that could’ve prepared me for the vibrancy and multi-instrumentation I witnessed in the flesh. So if you leave this review with anything, it is that I cannot put into words how much I recommend you to buy a ticket and see Gang of Youths live.

Featured image: Alice Loughran


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