Ex­plo­ration Ex­is­ten­tial

Aussie band Gang of Youths goes deep

Boston Herald - - MUSIC - By BRETT MI­LANO Gang of Youths, at Brighton Mu­sic Hall, Wed­nes­day. Tick­ets $15; tick­et­mas­ter.com.

In Oc­to­ber, the Aus­tralian band Gang of Youths opened a string of Mid­west­ern dates for the Foo Fighters. Most bands would prob­a­bly blow their own horn about a gig that huge. But for this thought­ful quin­tet, it be­came one more cause for self-ex­am­i­na­tion.

“We didn’t (mess) it up, I’ll give us that,” lead singer Dave Le’au­pepe said this week. “I prob­a­bly had the most en­joy­able tour­ing ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve had in my life. But we felt that we were do­ing some­thing we didn’t nec­es­sar­ily de­serve. There’s prob­a­bly some in­die band in the U.S. that de­served that slot far more than we did. It felt im­por­tant to us per­son­ally, but lit­tle in­die bands from Aus­tralia aren’t sup­posed to be open­ing for the Foo Fighters.”

At home, Gang of Youths is far more than an in­die band. They’ve had a No. 1 al­bum (last year’s “Go Farther in Light­ness,” their sec­ond), won a stack of awards in Aus­tralia’s equiv- alent of the Gram­mys and were the first band picked when MTV re­vived “Un­plugged” in Aus­tralia this year. Wed­nes­day’s show at Brighton Mu­sic Hall will likely be one of the last chances to see them in a small venue.

“I tend to be­lieve we put a lit­tle more into it, per­for­mance-wise, when we don’t have a built-in au­di­ence. It’s what makes you a bet­ter band,” Le’au­pepe said.

The band’s sound is arena-ready, with a lot of U2ish grandeur. And Le’au­pepe reg­u­larly puts weighty themes into his lyrics: The band’s first al­bum, “The Po­si­tions,” was writ­ten while he was deal­ing with al­co­holism and his girl­friend was fight­ing can­cer. The sec­ond al­bum was a 77-minute epic full of ex­is­ten­tial themes.

“That’s where my pre­oc­cu­pa­tions re­ally lay,” Le’au­pepe said. “I grew up around some pretty in­tense evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian­ity, so I’m used to look­ing at some se­ri­ous life-or-death strug­gles in my ev­ery­day life. Even with­out the re­li­gios­ity, I’d be look­ing at life as a se­ri­ous ex­is­ten­tial test — try­ing to find sig­nif­i­cance in our facile, mun­dane world. My life has been rel­a­tively event­ful, so the back­story I’ve had brings metothe­p­lace­whereIdig for artis­tic gold. I’m al­ways in­ter­ested in that col­li­sion of ev­ery­day life with the eter­nal.”

The band has some­times been crit­i­cized for be­ing too re­lent­lessly rous­ing and an­themic, but Le’au­pepe has no pa­tience for that.

“The peo­ple who don’t like it are prob­a­bly in­nercity white nerds who’d rather be lis­ten­ing to some trust-fund punk band,” he said. “I hate the idea that rock ’n’ roll is not sup­posed to be tran­scen­dent. Our mu­sic is about build­ing peo­ple up and giv­ing them a sense of pur­pose in life; and no­body can tell me that my dream of find­ing some re­demp­tive power in mu­sic isn’t sig­nif­i­cant.

“I’ve got no use for any kind of cyn­i­cism,” he said. “The last cynic that I thought was any good was Dio­genes, and that was a long time ago.”

BIG STAGES: Gang of Youths, above, opened for the Foo Fighters in a bunch of Mid­west­ern tour stops in Oc­to­ber.

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