Welcome to the future: we still have gigs here and we still listen to music. Except, while your favourite artists sweat and sing, you comment by way of heart emojis on a virtual stream instead of screaming in a crowd.
Dominic Richard Harrison, the 22-year-old Doncaster eccentric known to the world as Yungblud, says good morning from behind a desk at 7am West Coast time to roughly 40,000 fans watching from across the world. This is The Yungblud Show, a live-streamed concert following the cancellation of a run of his shows due to the coronavirus outbreak.
He’s not the only one. Gigs are being cancelled or postponed globally, and with no official advice on what to do about concerts here in the UK – even though several countries have banned large gatherings – it can seem like a confusing time. But this new format feels like a fascinating initiative.
The Yungblud Show runs for an hour, interspersing a handful of songs performed live with comical interludes from various guests. There’s human meme and songwriter Oliver Tree with a cooking segment; actor Bella Thorne and Machine Gun Kelly for a drinking game (with Corona beer, of course) and a Q&A with questions from fans. It’s a sharp, well-run production, clearly the product of astonishingly fast lateral thinking.
On every song, Yungblud’s energy remains astronomically high. He sings with so much force, jumps with colossal bounce, that it makes you acutely aware of how infectious optimism can be.
There are clever nods to the unusual circumstances, too. On ‘original me’, the line “I’m so paranoid / Most people I avoid” feels specifically written for those in self-isolation. On ‘parents’, Yungblud sings “It’s alright / We’ll survive” – but instead of continuing with the next line (“Because parents aren’t always right”) he leaves a silence, making it all feel so much heavier.
Making continued eye contact with the camera to stubbornly entertain every individual staring back, Yungblud urges fans to participate, to mosh at home – while always telling them to “split out, split out, split fucking out.” The words ‘social distancing’ are never mentioned, but they never need to be.
The music is the best part of the show – a blistering display of talent and good intentions with sturdy cinematic value. The camerawork and editing give the show the same experience as live-streamed theatre; not necessarily a reproduction of in-person attendance, but a carefully designed, independent project with every individual’s best interests in mind.
“The world is very, very, very weird right now,” Yungblud concedes. “So make sure you tell everyone you love that you love them.” It’s a sentiment that courses throughout – a gift from an entertainer who couldn’t bear to be in his bedroom on his own, so brought himself to everyone else’s bedrooms instead. For a brief hour of musical fireworks, it feels like a vital, generous display of kindness and hope, something that’s essential right now.