A decade later, Gang of Youths steps it up

Paradise Rock Club, Boston, May 8, 2022

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Gang of Youths lead singer David Le'aupepe acknowledged to the sold-out crowd that this was not the first time the rock group from Down Under had played the room. "We played here about 10 years ago," Le'aupepe said after a sharp, muscular opening with "the angel of 8th ave." "It was one of the worst fucking gigs."

While that unpleasant night was apparently still embedded in Le'aupepe's memory, this one might be as well – but for entirely different reasons.

The group, who recalled U2 – one could just easily imagine Bono easily covering Gang of Youths' songs – established themselves both musically and vocally early on in a triumphant, highly engaging set.

Gang of Youth's songs are at times anthemic, fast-paced rockers with lots going on musically. This was not your typical band configuration though thanks to the prominent fiddle playing of Tom Hobden

At the center of the action was Le'aupepe, an engaging, charismatic, chatty front man. Oh yeah, he also showed himself to be a very good singer with his full-bodied voice. Unfortunately, it wasn't always a clean sound, starting off muddy and then occasionally buried beneath the music.

And Le'aupepe deserves a lot of credit for connecting with the locals. He name checked Ted Williams, Larry Bird and former Bruin Joe Thornton (the latter alone proved his street cred given that hockey is not a sport in Australia). Not to mention citing a variety of smaller communities in the greater Boston area.

And he walked about the crowd later in the set, a rarity at this particular club.

Ultimately, though, it's all about the music. Gang of Youth's latest cd, "angel in realtime," is Le'aupepe's ruminations on the death of his father. There's a lot that Le'aupepe has unpacked, perhaps no more so than in the deeply personal "brothers."

Le'aupepe played the song solo on keyboards in a singer/songwriter style with his sonorous voice in a musical landscape world aways from anything else that Gang of Youths would play. In the haunting song, Le'aupepe said that his father wasn't exactly who he said he was, including fathering two brothers in New Zealand. Talk about music as therapy.

But most of the set was similar to songs like "The Heart is a Muscle" and "Let Me Down Easy," with accessible rhythms and choruses.

Given Gang of Youth's last outing at the Paradise, it didn't take much to top that show. And based on how Le'aupepe seemed exceedingly satisfied at the end of 90 minutes, he must have been pleased with the turn of events.

Anchorage, Alaska native Quinn Christopherson, best known for winning the 2019 NPR Tiny Desk Concert, was appealing during his half-hour stint. Insightful and very personal as well, Christopherson was accompanied only by a DJ/acoustic guitarist. A bit clunky at times lyrically, Christopherson was sincere and honest to himself and his appreciative audience. His range may be limited, but authenticity counts for quite a lot.

© Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher • countrystandardtime@gmail.com
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