‘If you’re writing a review, I don’t give a shit.’ Frontman Dave Le’aupepe jokes coolly, as the intro to ‘Let Me Down Easy’ is stopped for the second time. Le’aupepe wants the crowd loud, dancing, but most crucially, here and now, and he’s not reluctant to make that clear. As the crowd erupts in excitement, the punky, energetic instruments pick up, Le’aupepe’s husky vocals and signature dance moves take over, a humungous disco ball spins and blue and pink lights sparkle around the arena. The band launch into song, the crowd hypnotised and having the time of their lives.
I got into Gang of Youths when I was sixteen, and I think they’re a band you’ll always remember discovering. The first taste becomes an essential musical memory: the first time hearing the dulcet keys of ‘Magnolia’, the first head-banging to the intense drums of ‘What Can I Do if the Fire Goes Out?’. I remember when they announced a string of shows in 2018, desperately DMing the band’s management team for an All Ages show, which eventually manifested into a transformative live experience of how much music can mean to people. This effect – of raw, untethered passion between audience and artist – is integral to Gang of Youths as a band, experience and force. This was proved a million times over, through every song they performed last night for their unbelievable ‘angel in realtime.’ tour.
Opening triumphantly with ‘the angel of 8th ave.’, and concluding enthrallingly with ‘goal of the century’, each performance brought something new from Gang of Youths. Of this new era, an even deeper connection between band and audience as Le’aupepe did what he does best: transform heartache into poetry. Tributing his late father Teleso ‘Tattersall’ Le’aupepe and sharing stories of his youth and his own dealings with ‘imposter syndrome’, Le’aupepe has an ability to completely draw an audience in with true trust and vulnerability.
The killer vocals of Le’aupepe were made all the more mesmerising by the awe-inspiring talent of the band. Attention was cast on every person on stage, including on opener Gretta Ray who offered a dazzling rendition of ‘The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows’ and also on Seumanu Simon Matāfai, who soothed with piano.
Ditching the dark aesthetics of years before, the show glamoured in colourful lights, abstract visuals and a glimmering disco ball. Still Gang of Youths in their raw lyrics and natural cool, the band seem to have taken a leap into vibrancy, perhaps to lighten the hard-hitting lyrics of their songs with some colour and verve.
During a solo acoustic rendition of ‘unison’, Le’aupepe effortlessly charmed with raspy vocals and soft guitar strums. But once the whole band joined, it was like some cosmic breakthrough. Dave Le’aupepe is a formidable artist alone, but the power of the band together, is an invincible insight into pure talent, chemistry and unity. That’s Gang of Youths.