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Review: Whenyoung – 05/10/19 – Think Tank?, Newcastle

16/10/2019

Greeting an intimate crowd at Think Tank?, Whenyoung float onto the stage. Lead singer Aoife Power is an ethereal vision in a pale silk shirt, accompanied by guitarist Niall Burns and drummer Andrew Flood…

Their surnames alone are poetic enough, before they start playing their opening song ‘Pretty Pure’ and the audience are swept up in their electric energy. Power holds the microphone lead over her shoulders and around her neck throughout the set, as though it is some kind of snake weighing her down. She excitedly thanks the audience after every song in a lilting Irish accent, as if we are putting on a show for her. 

There is something charmingly adolescent about the indie pop band from Limerick. Burns jumps around on stage, sipping beer and climbing up onto the amp at particularly climactic moments. It feels as though we have just stumbled across a group of teenagers rehearsing in their bedroom. Power introduces their song ‘Labour of Love’ saying, “this one is for the people who look after you when you’re feeling down,” before launching into the track. The painfully sweet chorus is reminiscent of the Cranberries. 

Power’s moving vocals gently pierce through the rhythmic momentum sustained by the drums and guitars, culminating in an emotional melodic howl. The more upbeat ‘Future’ is next, delivering a hopeful anthem that the audience dance and sing along to. Meanwhile Power nods to the beat and Burns jumps around the stage. 

Later in the set, drummer Flood shouts to the audience, “sing after me” before singing the main riff from ‘The Others’. The band tribute this song to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, with “Frank the fireman” in the audience selling t-shirts that read ‘Grenfell Never Again’, one of which is worn by the drummer, alongside the band’s merch. 

After the melody fades away, the beat is sustained, building tension until Power comes in with opening lyrics from ‘Given Up’: “it’s your world and you create it.” Power gets the setlist wrong telling the audience, “I never know what I’m doing,” in a charmingly casual way.

Before the band play their last song ‘Never Let Go’, Power says to the audience, “you’re gonna need to sing this” before powerfully singing an acapella riff. The crowd enthusiastically attempt to sing back and do so out of tune, to which Power responds, “beautiful! Very in tune!”, before launching into the song, during which she bends down to the audience and sings with the crowd, sharing the microphone. 

Whenyoung achieve a unique closeness with their audience, presenting themselves as friends sharing music together, rather than performing to a crowd. After the concert, Power says, “see you guys over there!”, pointing to the merch stand and sounding genuinely keen to interact with her audience. Whenyoung’s jerky dreamy set was clumsily enchanting and moving. 

WORDS: ROSIE MCCRUM

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