GANG OF YOUTHS
Hordern Pavilion, September 8.
It may be unfair to put this on David Le’aupepe, who probably spends far more time thinking about thinking than is healthy, and doesn’t need more guilt, but the Gang Of Youths chap is to blame for some of this next philosophising delaying talking about the actual (rather excellent) gig.
We are all familiar with that line that music has lost its relevance because it has lost its singular position as the definer in youth culture. We are equally familiar with the argument within this that guitar rock has lost its value because it’s lost its dominance except among the old and addled.
To the extent that music isn’t the first or even second point of reference for many people, this is true, and unlikely to change. And within music the diffused nature of availability and the confused nature of access means we can make our own “mixtapes” of sounds and it can be all over the shop.
Thank god too, for those of us who want to hear anything, everything, good, and not just what narrowcasters tell us.
But jeez, centrality is not the only marker and those who use it so are as guilty of “old think” as any rockist grumbler. Find yourself in a field, a club or stadium with an audience kicked in the guts, smacked in the head and ripped at the heart and you won’t throw away music, or even rock, just yet.
This Gang Of Youths show was full of reasons to care if you cared enough: from songs which tick off all the trigger points – or clichés if you’re not a fan - of rock (big rises, like cars set on an open road; bigger climaxes, like the expelling of air in joyous shouts) to that communal feel of bodies aligned and emotions shared which turns a soulless shed like the Hordern into a packed stand on grand final day.
From a band doing everything with commitment – hello bassplayer Max Dunn who was a riot of movement and bliss - to an audience that felt connected (the band are/feel like us) but still conscious of that necessary difference (the band is going to lift us because they are not really like us).
But there’s no escaping that it really does begin and end with Le’aupepe, a man reshaping himself: maybe into someone he isn’t and may never be, but knows it must be tried; maybe into someone he was never meant to be, by class or locale or religion, but will become by sheer force of will.
The intensity there is compelling: lifting the decent songs into something very good, pushing the very good songs into something special.
He can sing and he can write, they can play and they can hold you. But that Gang Of Youths have only Holy Holy as competition for the next Australian rock band that matters to the heart and the heartland, is down to the exposed soul and open arms of Le’aupepe.
That connection will always be relevant. This will always matter.