Gig Review | whenyoung @ McChuills Glasgow, 12/4/23

Returning to Glasgow after four years, whenyoung received a warm welcome back to live gigs on this first date of their UK tour. Original members Aoife and Andrew were joined by two new members of the touring band, who brought a bigger sound and more energy. After having seen them perform in 2019 at King Tuts, this new lineup was oozing with more confidence and conviction than ever before, I was very impressed by their growth as individuals and as a collective.

The Irish duo are fresh off the release of their highly anticipated new album, Paragon Songs, a genre-blending array of tracks that was predominantly written in 2020. Beginning their set with the lead-single, ‘Shame Train’, the band opened strongly with a bold take on the conflicting connection of desire and undesirability. Followed by electronic pop track, ‘Rubiks Cube’, which utilises the extended metaphor of that famous but tricky little handheld puzzle. Just like the game is difficult and at times frustrating, it is used to represent the complex and forever changing nature of the human brain. Aoife sings that her “mind feels like a Rubik’s cube” that “there’s no book ends” as her thoughts overspill and cannot be contained no matter how hard she tries.

The conceptual song ‘The Laundress’ was a definite stand out as it uses the imagery of a washer woman cleaning her clothes as a metaphor for clearing one’s own pain away. Aoife herself spoke of how therapeutic cleaning is as a means of alleviating anxiety, which is something I related to, whenever I feel anxious the dusting rag can be the first thing I reach for. A tidy space equals a tidy mind, after all. This song certainly made a lasting impression on me.

Alongside their new album, the older tracks received the same, if not more, attention and applause. These songs include ‘Future’ and ‘A Labour of Love’ taken from their debut album, Reasons to Dream. I enjoyed hearing these songs live again as you could hear the bands growth in terms of their sound and stage presence. They also provided a great time for thinking and retrospection as the world has drastically changed since 2019 when the album was released; Aoife singing ‘Look to the future/See it all tipping over’ hit deeper than it ever has in a world where looking to the future is becoming increasingly difficult for a lot of people. However, it also brings a great deal of hope, after all the “dancing” and “drunk dreaming”’ the future will become “sharper now”. 

The gig ended with the standout songs from Reasons to Dream, ‘Pretty Pure’, ‘Never Let Go’ and ‘The Others’. The lyrics ‘That’s how the others died/And that’s how they’ll die again/And again and again and again’ are always sang with a unique depth, and this gig was no different. The bands lyrics reflect the anger that many people throughout the UK feel towards the government and the current crisis in living. Whenyoung are a band of their time, who are constantly pushing boundaries and using their writing to explore the depths of what it means to be alive. We really are lucky to have them. After hearing the crowd’s reaction, whenyoung, should feel confident in their craft, as even after a break away, their fans are certainly not going anywhere.