Gang of Youths didn't release new music in 2018 (they did release MTV Unplugged Live In Melbourne though), but it felt like 2018 was their breakout year in the States. The Australian band's 2017 sophomore album Go Father In Lightness was already big in their home country, but it gradually started catching on here towards the end of 2017 and throughout 2018, and Gang of Youths didn't tour North America in support of it until early 2018. As we witnessed at both the Bowery Ballroom show and at SXSW, Gang of Youths' live show is even better than their album. It's so triumphant and sincere and cathartic, and even on a small stage, they play like an arena band.
They started playing increasingly larger stages Stateside as the year went on, including some really big ones when they toured with Foo Fighters (and at the several festivals they played), and last night (12/11) they brought their final tour of the year back to NYC for their biggest show here yet, at Irving Plaza. If it wasn't sold out, it was extremely close, as the place was packed to the gills the entire time. And like at the Bowery Ballroom show back in March, David Le'aupepe acknowledged how surreal it was to be playing to big crowds in New York City, where he briefly lived and where Gang of Youths used to pay their dues at small venues like Cake Shop and Lit Lounge (the latter of which he shouted out last night).
Gang of Youths were the same triumphant, sincere, cathartic live band that they were back in March, and it's no surprise at all that they handled the larger stage like pros. Le'aupepe is the kind of frontman you can't take your eyes off of, whether he's rocking out to a fast song or belting it on a ballad or dancing without his guitar or giving a sentimental speech about his late father or running into the crowd. If you do take your eyes off of him, though, you'll see that every single person in this band is an expert at what they do and born for the stage (their drummer is especially a beast). They played basically all the favorites from their 2017 album last night, opening with the one-two-three punch of "Fear and Trembling," "What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?," and "The Heart Is a Muscle," and also including other faves like "Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane," "Let Me Down Easy," and "Say Yes to Life" as the night went on. After inviting the crowd to dance for "Let Me Down Easy," Le'aupepe cut the band off -- rapper style -- and (lightheartedly) shamed the Tuesday night NYC crowd who had been stiff all night. On take two, the packed room finally got moving, and it stayed that way for set closer "Magnolia," one of the two songs played from their debut (they also did "Vital Signs" in the encore).
To start the encore, Le'aupepe came on stage by himself for a solo cover of "I'm On Fire" by a guy his voice has been compared to lots of times, Bruce Springsteen. According to Setlist.fm, Gang of Youths only started doing the cover this year and this was their first time playing it in the US. He handled it as well as you'd expect, and he had most of the room singing along, getting everyone re-warmed up for the band to come back out and do the aforementioned "Vital Signs" before bringing the house down with "Say Yes To Life."
The tour continues in Boston tonight (12/12) before hitting Chicago on Friday (12/14) and wrapping up in Indianapolis on Saturday (12/15). Gang of Youths also already announced their first US show of 2019: Hangout Fest.
Watch video of the "I'm On Fire" cover and see the full setlist below:
Gang of Youths at Irving Plaza - 12/11/18 Setlist (via)
Fear and Trembling
What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?
The Heart Is a Muscle
Keep Me in the Open
Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane
Go Farther in Lightness
The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows
Let Me Down Easy
I'm on Fire (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Say Yes to Life