By any reasonable measure, 2018 was a great year for Gang of Youths.
This was the year that the band continued to build on its foundation in Australia with record-setting tours and a performance in front of the single biggest audience to ever see GOY live. Around the world — especially in North America — TV and touring opportunities opened bigger doors and earned the band buzz and a boatload of new fans.
Below are this fan’s thoughts on the six biggest moments of the year for Gang of Youths. I’m listing these in chronological order for two reasons: 1) I don’t think I’ve been following the band long enough to offer intelligent commentary explaining why one moment is more important than another, and 2) I’d probably be biased towards moments/events here in North America since it’s where I call home.
Lists like these are always subjective, so there’s a good chance you won’t agree with at least some of it. And that’s okay. Ready? Here we go…
March 12, 2018: Gang of Youths performs on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers
It’s a big deal for any musical artist to make its first live TV appearance in the U.S. Gang of Youths got its shot early in the year on Seth Meyers’ late-night talk show, performing a tight, 4-minute version of “What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?” Dave later recalled the Late Night appearance as “terrifying. It was so scary. It was fucking scary.”
It was a big deal for sure. The folks in the U.S. who estimate TV audiences say that Meyers’ show averaged about 1.4 million viewers that week. Critics raved about the band’s performance after the show; Tone Deaf called it “triumphant,” which seemed to be the consensus. Whether you missed it the first time or just want a reminder, here it is.
August 8, 2018: Gang of Youths announces A More Perfect Union festival
Fans in Brisbane were miffed (that’s an understatement) when their city was left off the original announcement of the Say Yes To Life tour. The band asked for patience and promised something big was coming their way.
Everyone found out what GOY had in mind on August 8 when the band announced the creation of its own festival, A More Perfect Union, which would take place at Riverstage on November 24. Gang of Youths headlined, and the lineup featured a handful of other up-and-coming Australian artists.
The festival was a smash, but the bigger development may end up being the foundation that it formed. In the August announcement, the band said this year’s AMPU was “the first of hopefully many.”
It speaks volumes that MTV Australia, in trying to launch its own version of the groundbreaking series MTV Unplugged, tapped Gang of Youths to be the first artist featured. In a bit of understatement, Max called it “a pretty big moment” before admitting that the band was “nervous and excited” by the opportunity.
On July 25, the band performed 10 songs in front of an audience of about 400 fans, friends and family members. It aired on MTV Australia less than a month later — August 19. The performance eventually became GOY’s first live album, released on vinyl, CD, and DVD on October 26. It debuted at No. 5 on the ARIA charts. The buzz was so strong that theaters in Sydney and Melbourne screened the video on the same day it was released at retail.
The MTV Unplugged album also became the band’s primary promotional vehicle later in the year as the Say Yes To Life tour reached North America. The TV show aired on MTV Live just before the tour began, while the DVD and vinyl were packaged together for a U.S. release on December 21, less than a week after it ended.
September 30, 2018: Gang of Youths performs before the NRL Grand Final
In the midst of all the MTV Unplugged buzz came the news that Gang of Youths would be performing live as the pre-game entertainment at the 2018 NRL Grand Final. The band played three songs, fighting through some technical issues (Dave’s guitar doesn’t seem to be working at all during the final song, “Deepest Sighs”) and, by all accounts, easily outperforming the Black Eyed Peas, who had performed a day earlier at the AFL grand final.
For GOY, it was (and is) the biggest audience that’s seen them play live. There were 82,688 people inside Sydney’s ANZ Stadium that day, and an estimated 1.7 million watching on TV. And for a lot of fans/observers, it was proof that Gang of Youths makes music that fits perfectly inside stadiums.
October 8-18, 2018: Gang of Youths opens 7 U.S. shows for Foo Fighters
If you were to make a list of Big Rock Bands that would be a perfect fit to have Gang of Youths as a support act on tour, Foo Fighters would be awfully close to the top. Dave Grohl and company invited GOY to open up seven shows (in 11 nights) on their “Concrete and Gold” tour this fall.
The tour saw GOY performing in arenas that ranged from 17,500 to 20,000 capacity. Dave L. told the Boston Herald that it was the “most enjoyable touring experience” of his life, but he didn’t feel like GOY belonged there. “There’s probably some indie band in the U.S. that deserved that slot far more than we did,” he said. “It felt important to us personally, but little indie bands from Australia aren’t supposed to be opening for the Foo Fighters.”
I was nervous before it began — not because of any doubt in GOY’s abilities, but mainly because some music fans just don’t take kindly to opening acts. But my fear was unfounded. I watched Twitter after every show, and Foo fans overwhelmingly loved this new band that most had never heard before. Suffice it to say that Gang of Youths made a lot of new fans over those seven shows.
October 28 – December 15, 2018: Say Yes To Life tour
There were several individual “moments” from this tour that deserve mention in any 2018 recap, but I’m gonna combine them all into one entry for this list.
The band played 29 shows over about seven weeks in Australia and the northeast U.S./Canada corridor. How well did it go?
- GOY set venue records with eight sold-out shows at The Forum in Melbourne and six sold-out shows at Enmore Theatre in Sydney.
- GOY played to sold-out crowds of more than 1,000 in New York City, Chicago and Washington, DC.
Not only did those U.S. crowds hit four digits, but they were also really into the shows. Definitely not Australia-level “into it” quite yet, but the North American crowds weren’t just there out of curiosity. Check out the crowd reaction at the end of the Chicago show.
All in all, this was a big year for Gang of Youths. Hopefully we can all agree on that much! But if you have a different event or moment that I should’ve included, let us know.
And let’s keep our fingers crossed for an even bigger 2019!
(Photo by Jones Willingham. Used with permission.)