Rock

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - So­phie Ben­jamin

MTV Un­plugged Live in Mel­bourne Gang of Youths Sony Mu­sic Nos­tal­gia is a pow­er­ful driver of both emo­tion and com­merce. Next year will mark 30 years of the MTV Un­plugged fran­chise, where well­known rock and pop artists per­form stripped­down ver­sions of their songs on acous­tic in­stru­ments in front of a live au­di­ence. Gang of Youths is Aus­tralia’s most beloved mil­len­nial rock band: its sec­ond al­bum Go Farther In Light­ness won a slew of ARIAs last year, and the quin­tet sold out ev­ery show of its 21-date home­com­ing tour. If Bruce Spring­steen learned to play mu­sic in a Syd­ney Pen­te­costal church and then dis­avowed his faith af­ter dis­cov­er­ing sex and booze, the mu­sic he made would sound a lot like Gang of Youths.

Recorded ear­lier this year at Mel­bourne’s Meat Mar­ket Arts Cen­tre, the en­tire setlist con­sists of Light­ness, bar a lonely track from an ear­lier EP. Opener Let Me Down Easy is trans­formed from a groovy come-on to a plain­tive re­quest, as front­man David Le’au­pepe sings while backed only by a string quar­tet. He switches to solo acous­tic troubadour mode for Fear and Trem­bling and the rest of the band fi­nally make them­selves known (taste­fully) on Keep Me in the Open. It takes four songs for the band’s bom­bast to come through, with strings and brass aug­ment­ing the gui­tar lines on lead sin­gle The Deep­est Sighs, The Frank­est Shad­ows.

When you have a singer and song­writer as tal­ented as Le’au­pepe, your band runs a real risk of be­com­ing The Front­man Show, to the detri­ment of the other play­ers and the songs. But by ton­ing down the rock the­atrics, this first Aus­tralian MTV Un­plugged record­ing has given all per­form­ers — from Gang of Youths mem­bers to the bonus string and brass mu­si­cians — an op­por­tu­nity to show­case their chops.

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