Every now and then something random happens that makes you wonder if someone upstairs is looking out for you. For me, it was a cold February morning on the Tube to work when I downloaded a playlist of Triple J’s hottest 100, and came across #5, ‘The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows’. It struck me like a bolt of lightning.
Fast forward a year, and I’m at Islington Assembly Hall, surrounded by a group of Aussies drinking beer and waiting for Gang of Youths to enter the stage. After a soothing opening acoustic set from Gretta Ray, the packed out, overwhelmingly stoked crowd cheered the main band members on.
They opened with ‘Fear and Trembling’, a song which takes you on a journey through a soft piano intro to a hard rock chorus, where lead singer David Le’aupepe sings with a sense of urgency: “I feel everything, Yeah I feel it all”. Their hardcore, chest-thumping hits were balanced with lighter songs like ‘Keep Me in the Open’, ‘Go Farther in Lightness’ and a cover of ‘A Case of You’ by Joni Mitchell, where the band were joined by Gretta Ray.
It wouldn’t be a Gang of Youths show without ‘Let Me Down Easy’, arguably their most well known song, which calls on us to “go out and love someone” and “don’t stop believing in truth and personal freedom”.
The stand out performance was ‘Magnolia’, a song David wrote about a suicide attempt years ago, where he stood in front of a car in the middle of the road. It takes a serious amount of courage to share something like that with the world, let alone turn it into an uplifting and empowering rock anthem. Of all the songs of the evening, that was the one that David chose to enter the crowd and be connected with the audience.
And of course, they also played the song that started it all, ‘The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows’, a passionate plea for authenticity, for courage and for honesty.
The last song of the evening was ‘Say Yes to Life’, which is exactly what you’ll be inspired to do if you see Gang of Youths live this summer.
So much modern art and modern music aspires to be understated, and artists are celebrated for being ‘cool’ and unaffected by the world. But Gang of Youths are bringing authenticity back into fashion. Their music gives you permission to be excited, to admit to loving someone, to confront tragedy, and to “say the unsayable”.
If your soul is weary, if the London grey skies are getting you down, or if you just want to feel more alive – then you can’t miss their next London gig in June.
Trust me, you’ll wanna see this band before you die.
Also coming to London over the coming months: