“It’s lovely to have a hometown show on a night like this,” smiles Gang Of Youths’ dashing frontman David Le’aupepe to a howling O2 Academy Brixton in his thick Aussie brogue. “We have never played to this many people in this fucking town.”
After becoming one of Australia’s biggest bands, Dave and co. moved to London five years ago to escape the pitfalls and “anxieties” of fame and lead a much more anonymous lifestyle in the capital. So it’s a little odd, then, that tonight’s near-capacity crowd at the iconic Academy marks the moment their profile inescapably bloomed overseas. But then Gang Of Youths’ larger-than-life sound was built for community: it follows them wherever they go.
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Strutting out to instigate a percussive clap intro to the majestic ‘The Angel of 8th Ave.’ (the best arena-smasher The National never wrote), the band instil rapture from the off. “Thank you for turning up to my therapy session,” Le’aupepe later smirks – you’re welcome, Dave. If you’re gonna write an album about the passing of your father, discovering brothers you never knew you had, and connecting with your family’s hidden Samoan roots and culture, then you might as well make it a banger, eh?
The early outings in the set of the shuffling euphoria of ‘The Man Himself’, the synthy swells of ‘Tend The Garden’ and the Elbow-esque aching bliss of ‘Unison’ prove that cuts from this year’s stellar ‘Angel In Realtime’ now land as well as their earlier rock juggernaut material from 2015’s ‘The Positions’ and its 2017 follow-up ‘Go Farther In Lightness’.
Throughout the show, Le’aupepe notes how surprised the band are to be on this stage. “11 years ago, they said it couldn’t be done,” he says at one point, noting that “a bunch of fucking Christian dorks” should have no place being up here. It’s touching to see a band not shying away from sincerity, but then GoY have always been ones to wear their hearts on their sleeves. “I had to put my dog down today,” Le’aupepe later tells a devastated crowd while introducing the tender ‘Brothers’. “I literally just came from the vet… Don’t feel sad. She was 16-years-old.”
In paying tribute to his late white chihuahua, the frontman concludes that “all things must end”, life is about togetherness and one should have no time for “insufferable cunts who find things cringe”. “Don’t be a fucking cynic,” he adds. “When you’re gone, no-one’s going to remember how many things you rolled your eyes at.” These are the words of an artist who has too often been accused of laying on the sentiment a little thick… but fuck that. You can tell from the hollering sing-along of ‘In The Wake Of Your Leave’ and the mass group exorcism of gnarly closer ‘What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out’ that all that widescreen feeling – plus the kitchen sink – is more than welcome.
“If you had any idea how we felt to be playing in front of you right now, you would probably explode,” Le’aupepe offers. “If you see any of us walking around London, our new hometown, you better fucking stop and say hello.” You got it: home is where the heart is, and Brixton is bursting with love for Gang Of Youths tonight.
Gang Of Youths played:
‘The Angel of 8th Ave.’
‘The Man Himself’
‘The Heart Is a Muscle’
‘Tend The Garden’
‘Let Me Down Easy’
‘The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows’
‘In The Wake Of Your Leave’
‘Goal of the Century’
‘What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?’