I’ll level with you, folks: I really, really did not want to go to this show.
Whether caused by a lapse in mental health, the inevitable burnout from one too many Wednesday nights spent deep in the pits, or the association of concert-going with work – hell, maybe even a combination of the three – the past few months have seen live music transition from the thing I look forward to most in life to something I unconditionally dread and loathe. The last handful of shows I’ve hit have ranged from menial and boring to outright unbearable, and though Gang Of Youths are one of my absolute favourite bands, each step towards the Enmore Theatre had a noxious anxiety brewing fiercer in my chest.
But something ticked when David Le’aupepe and co. sauntered out onstage. That anxiety became excitement. A deep, aquatic blue sank over the stage’s foreground, pricks of white light buzzing out with every tight, crisp jab of the frontman’s Rickenbacker. The crowd was notably calm – not by any means stiff, however, just soaking in the sheer grandeur of the band’s unashamedly theatrical indie-rock epics – and Le’aupepe’s voice rung with a blunt, authoritative gravity; it’s hard to believe the first of these six shows was axed because he got whacked down with a chest infection. I felt strangely at peace, as though this show was tailored specifically for my comfort.
The set at large was steered by Le’aupepe’s undeniably swoon-worthy charm. He slinked around the stage like the pixel-perfect lead in a Disney musical, swaying arms and thrusting hips in seamless harmony with his backing band’s torrent of shimmering guitars and bubbly basslines. But even giving his all to the melodrama, Le’aupepe’s performance was not a beat off brilliant; holed up at a grand piano, he made hearts melt en masse with a polarising one-two-punch of “Persevere” and the title track from last year’s Go Farther In Lightness LP.
Where orchestration reigns on their studio work, Gang Of Youths don’t have such a luxury onstage. In its place, the band built viciously dynamic soundscapes layered with serpentine synths and honey-sweet noodling, the stunning translation thanks in no short part to the enigmatic chemistry between keyboardist Jung Kim and lead guitarist JojiMalani. The pair held the audiophiles among us by the throat with their stadium-level musicality, though it was bassist Max Dunn that stole the spotlight on breakthrough bangers “Let Me Down Easy” and “Magnolia”.
Opening the show was Tamworth indie goddess and BIGSOUND standout Charlie Collins, whose 30-minute set teleported punters to a transcendental wonderland of glittering atmospherics and soul-caressing vocal harmonies. Collins herself had jaws firmly planted on the ground, vocal flutters dazzling and her acoustic fretwork simply faultless. It’s without question that Collins will find herself headlining Enmore-sized theatres before too long.