A day after Gang Of Youths announced the release date of their third album and a UK 2022 tour, they headed to Rescue Rooms for their first ever show in Nottingham. Postponed from September to give the band time to finish their upcoming album, it was an eagerly anticipated (and sold-out) gig. Jonathan Hague reviews.
University of Nottingham alumni Jerub kicked off proceedings with a moving, albeit very slow, acoustic guitar set. His headline show at The Bodega in December may be more of a spectacle, where he’ll be joined by a full band. Nevertheless, his simplistic approach allowed him to show off his flawless vocals, and he came across very well, interacting with the crowd and getting them warmed up for what was to come. I doubt there’d be a huge crossover between Jerub fans and Gang of Youths fans (his set seemed to be a last-minute addition– I found out there was a support at 3pm on the day of the gig), but the crowd were receptive to his charming music.
A series of indie bangers filled the wait for the headline (the DJ was much better than at my last Rescue Rooms gig!), then just after 9pm, Gang of Youths took to the stage. I’d managed to find myself the best spot in the house, front and centre, three rows from the front! I was so close that I could just about make out some of the songs on the setlist that was sellotaped to the floor, so I knew that we’d be treated to The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows as the opener. I initially thought that this was a strange choice, as it’s one of Gang Of Youths’ slower songs, but it got the crowd belting out the lyrics from the get-go, and its climax was one of the most intense moments of the gig.
''Writing powerful and uplifting music about difficult topics is what Gang Of Youths do best''
The band then raced through their new material, playing Unison, The Angel of 8th Ave. and Tend The Garden all within the first 5 songs of the night. They then turned to their tried-and-tested hits in the middle of the set – a decision which goes against the usual tendencies of bands to book-end their gigs with the crowd-pleasers. The most emotional moment of the night came when Let Me Down Easy and Magnolia were played back-to-back – Let Me Down was prefaced with a monologue about how it was written in a tough period of lead singer David Le'aupepe’s life, whilst Magnolia is a song all about Le'aupepe’s suicide attempt. Writing powerful and uplifting music about difficult topics is what Gang Of Youths do best, and this was accentuated live, where you could feel the emotion exuding from Le'aupepe as he sang such personal lyrics. His stage presence was fantastic all night, putting lots of passion into his guitar playing and constantly interacting with the crowd. He also did lots more talking between songs than I’ve experienced in recent gigs, which was nice to get to know his personality a bit better. Although in what was already a fairly short set, 1 hour and 10 minutes, it may have been nice to fit in one more song instead.
The band left the stage after What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?, although advice to the crowd to ''shout if you want to hear more'' left us in no doubt that they were going to come back on. A one-song encore ensued, with Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane providing a fittingly atmospheric and powerful end to a moving and uplifting gig. Gang Of Youths smashed their first ever gig in Nottingham, and it seems inevitable that they’ll be back soon to play one of the city’s larger venues.
Written by: Jonathan Hague
Edited by: Amrit Virdi