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Gang of Youths rocked Bowery Ballroom with Common Holly (pics, review)

Australia’s Gang of Youths have been popular in their home country for a few years now, and it seems like they’ve had something of a breakthrough in the US with 2017’s Go Farther In Lightness. That’s the record that helped get me into them, but it was really seeing them at SXSW, where they put on one of the best sets the BV team saw all week, that really sealed the deal. Their live show is over-the-top good, and it left me reeling in such excitement that I had to see them do it again when their tour came to NYC a week later for a sold-out show at Bowery Ballroom (3/25).

Seeing them at a headlining show to true fans was even better than seeing them on a SXSW party. The place was packed like sardines with people jumping up and down, shrieking during and in between almost every song, and yelling nearly all the words. The band fed off all this energy and delivered it right back, owning the stage and commanding the room like it was Madison Square Garden. They were clearly stoked to even be playing a sold-out Bowery Ballroom though — frontman David Le’aupepe talked about how they used to live in NYC and play Cake Shop to 12 people, and he sounded genuinely grateful for anyone who’s supported them and helped them come as far as they have.

Everybody in this band brings it — they’re all fantastic musicians, they’re loud, and their stage presence is often larger than life — but Le’aupepe steals the show. He frequently steps to the front of the stage and hovers over the crowd (and at one point he ran into the crowd) or shakes his hips in a heartthrob rock star kind of way, and even when he’s got a guitar in his hand he isn’t held back from that level of swagger. He’s full of charisma and you can often see the passion in his facial expressions as he delivers his words, and he interacts with crowd members in a way that filled the room with smiles. He also knows how to get sentimental, and introduced “Persevere” with a story of how it’s about his friend’s baby daughter who passed away eight and a half months into pregnancy and never got to live her life. It was very moving, as was his performance of the song, which he did solo. The quiet song went over just as well as the rockers did, and it really spoke to how ambitious and diverse Gang of Youths’ music can be. They may wear their influences on their sleeves a bit (Springsteen, The National, Arcade Fire, etc), but they package those sounds together with enough of their own personality and enough of an unpretentious, swinging-for-the-fences mentality that it really feels like we’re witnessing something new and great.

Opening the show was Montreal’s Common Holly, who may have seemed like a weird match on paper but actually paired very well with Gang of Youths and definitely won over a chunk of the crowd. Common Holly’s set was mostly a lot quieter than Gang of Youths, but both have an orchestral side (though Gang of Youths didn’t show that side at this show, Common Holly did by having a cellist on every song), and both clearly put a ton of emotion into their performances. Common Holly did get kinda rockin’ at two parts, once on a new song called “I’m Crazy, OK?” and once on set closer “If After All,” a highlight off of her debut album Playing House.

Pictures of Gang of Youths and Common Holly are in the gallery above. Gang of Youths’ setlist and a video from last night, below.

Gang of Youths’ tour continues, and includes the recently announced Lollapalooza, where they will play with Jack White, Arctic Monkeys, The National, and Vampire Weekend, whose fans should all make sure they see Gang of Youths.

Gang of Youths at Bowery Ballroom – 3/25/18 Setlist
Fear and Trembling
Atlas Drowned
The Heart Is a Muscle
Sjamboksa
Keep Me in the Open
Persevere
Let Me Down Easy
Magnolia
Vital Signs
What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?
The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows

Encore:
Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane
Go Farther in Lightness
Say Yes to Life

photos by Amanda Hatfield

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