YUNGBLUD - Live @ Manchester Academy 2, 12/03/19
It feels like the further we enter into 2019, the more divided the UK becomes. From national politics and the ever-present indecision around Brexit, to media deliberation over the ISIS bride and the Michael Jackson documentary. The media seems to be promoting debates that do not push for a solution but seem to simply point the finger at who is right or wrong. Even the discussion around feminism often seems to be creating a media battle between women and men rather than working together to achieve equality. This pick-a-side mentality is damaging. It can leave individuals feeling guilty for their opinions, excluded from social circles and alienated; feeling anxious and alone. And no one wants to be a loner...
In times like this, when the nation is becoming more divided by the day, the pressure falls on the artists to create unity. One man that has risen to the challenge is the genre-bending, energy-emitting alternative rocker, YUNGBLUD (Dominic Harrison). With his openly expressive and all inclusive attitude, his shows aim to combat the division of the outside world and allow everyone present to enjoy an endorphin packed evening of not giving a fuck! We headed down to his show at Manchester Academy 2 to indulge in the euphoria.
PICTURE TAKEN FROM YUNGBLUD'S FACEBOOK
Even before the band stepped out onto the stage, the atmosphere was fizzing. The combination of Carlie Hanson’s brilliant support set and the series of classic tunes that were being blasted through the speakers in the interval was bringing the place to life. When people are on the verge of moshing to “9 to 5” you can tell it’s going to be a good night. As the spoken word intro rang out around the room, it was met by a piercing scream. The excitement in that room was insane! Then when the band finally made their way on stage, the thick, Ska influenced beat of ‘21st Century Liability’ kicked in and the crowd started bouncing their heads off, the night had well and truly begun!
What followed was a three track burst of sweaty, punk energy that seemed to bring the room to boiling point in a cocktail of raw music and youthful angst. Yet, around halfway into the main set, the mood of the room took a more serious and contemplative turn as YUNGBLUD began to play ‘Polygraph Eyes’, a song that explores the deep issue that the UK has with sexual assault, especially in the popular club scene. The message “Too many blokes are getting heavy when a girl looks unsteady” is so important. It is one thing just saying this, but when you are singing it in such an accessible way, with a crowd full of people singing it back, that is when it makes an impact. It is not uncommon for a groups of lads to “agree” with this message yet not really act according to it; sometimes it just doesn’t sink in. However, when you are singing it at the top of your voice at a gig of your favourite artist, you start to realise the significance behind those words. It can’t be understated what influence a night like that can have on an individual’s mindset. (Watch YUNGBLUD talk about mental health and gender identity on Sky 'Divided' below)
The next track, ‘Ice Cream Man’, was the only unreleased song in the set. It’s always a risk trying to engage an audience in a completely new song but the second it began you could tell exactly why he had took that risk. It was pounding, upbeat and infectious (as are most of his songs it has to be said) and along with ‘Loner’, his most recent solo track, provides a tantalising teaser as to was it to come for YUNGBLUD. The new tracks carry a more Brit-Pop vibe (enhanced by the sight of Dom wielding a tambourine). They are richer, denser, more anthemic. As they died down the music and got the crowd to sing back the primal, vocal hook to ‘Loner’ the room took on an angelic feel. Every single person in that room lifted their heads to the bright lights above, forgot any problems they had in day-to-day life, and just sang their heart out as the room became united as one.
The (almost) unbearable screams from the crowd at the end of the song were evidence of this unity. The YUNGBLUD fans not only share a love for his music, but a love for positivity, inclusion and a love for each other. The music has merely been a platform to create a family, one for anyone that feels like they don’t belong. You can see this, not just from his live shows, but from the people queuing from 8am to meet him before the gig, the thousands who have opened up because of him and his music and the countless friendships that have been made through fan pages across the world.
As the night drew to an end, Dom simply looked out into the crowd and started laughing with joy. You can understand that the rapid journey from being unknown by most to being adored by thousands would be overwhelming. Yet, it doesn’t seem to have changed his performances. The encore of 'Die For The Hype', 'Doctor Doctor' and 'Machine Gun (F**k the NRA)' was non-stop intensity. A mosher's dream! After countless sold out shows in the UK and USA and having to deal with paparazzi since entering into a relationship with ‘Anti-popstar’ Halsey, his live shows remain as down to earth as ever. They leave you with a renewed sense of motivation; a wild frenzy of love, punk and angst that will stay in your heart for years to come.