The o2 Academy, Bournemouth
He’s been deemed the voice of a generation, and in less than five minutes of the lights going down, it’s crystal clear why, as lipstick coated lips are projected onto the stage curtains of the o2 Academy, Bournemouth, and YUNGBLUD’s voice is dubbed over the top. He asks rhetorical questions, to which the crowd scream and cheer, up for absolutely anything. “Question 1”, he interrogates, “are you ready to scream louder than you have ever screamed before?” The crowd erupt. Yes, then. Intense music plays in the background, playing on the anticipation that is buzzing throughout the room. “Question 2. Are you ready to go f*cking mad that they’ll probably lock you up and throw away the key?” The screaming intensifies. “Question 3. Are you ready to jump until we crack this f*cking floor below us?” Finally, we reach the most important question of them all… “Are you ready to celebrate love and unity with every single ounce of your being? Alright then, here it comes. Enjoy the show.” The stage is washed out in an artificial light as the curtain swiftly drops, revealing the neon red-haired, pop-punk teen pin-up, standing completely still, centre stage, before he leaps towards the audience. “Are you all ready to f*cking jump?” He screams. The crowd scream back, equally as loud. “I said, are you ready to f*cking jump?” The music hasn’t even started yet, and this is already the loudest show I’ve ever attended. “This is the song about the person…” he begins. The crowd know exactly what to do, declaring at the very top of their lungs, “about the person I love.” The raucous guitars kick in, as does the adrenaline rush. The show has well and truly begun.
It’s always been made very clear that “YUNGBLUD” is not just 24-year-old, Dominic Harrison; it’s a community, a family and a safe space to be whoever it is that you want to be. It’s a place where you know that you will be accepted and you will fit in. “You can say whatever the f*ck you wanna say. You can love whoever the f*ck you wanna love. You can identify in whatever way you wanna f*cking identify. So, I’ll ask you again”, he places his hands on his hips and leans in forward, elongating his vowels as he directly addresses the audience of predominantly young people who feel that they have been misunderstood by the stressors of modern society. “Bournemouth, are you really feeling the f*cking love?” He throws his arms up into the air in exaggeration and the sold out academy goes wild. Despite the room being crammed to the brim, and the maximum capacity of the venue being almost 2,000, YUNGBLUD manages to make his show feel incredibly intimate, taking the time to really interact with his dedicated following, whilst showing off his strongly equipped stage craft and showmanship. He’s confident, he’s mouthy, and he’s a true performer. However, it almost feels too put on - does he really go home for Sunday roast with his parents, going round the room pointing at all the faces looking up at him and shouting, “I love you, I love you, I love you”?
Whatever the crowd think of his presence, they couldn’t care less. He has the crowd in the palm of his hand - anything he says goes. During Anarchist, a catchy, bouncy number that resides on his debut album, 21st Century Liability, he instructs the crowd to get down on the floor. Of course, those in the pit are quick to conform, although those of us on the balconies that inhabit either side of the stage are hesitant to join. He points to those in the elevated view, before teasing the crowd, “lower, lower, lower.” Everybody complies, staying down until the beat drops again for the chorus, leaping up and restoring the electrifying energy within the room. If you were to ask this crowd “If YUNGBLUD told you to jump off a cliff, would you?”, their answer would probably be a simple one: yes.
Mosh pits are completely endorsed, with Harrison adopting a hands on hips stance, leaning in, and repeatedly uttering no word other than, “wider.” And the pit gets wider and wider, until everyone is squashed up against the barrier, the middle of the room separated out for metres, before those in the standing area rush into each other and continue to jump, arms in the air, absolutely care-free. They’re not just willing to burn off all their energy in the pit - every single word of every single song is sung back in unison. In I Love You, Will You Marry Me? a “song about Northern England”, more specifically a track depicting the tragic story of Sheffield’s Park Hill Bridge, YUNGBLUD doesn’t sing the chorus, instead he leaves the crowd to do it, and they do not disappoint, so much so that it appears Harrison cannot get his head around it, as he stands on the edge of the stage, beaming and shaking his head in utter disbelief that his music has reached so many people, and had an impact on them all. In a similar regard, Mars, a touching song about a transgender girl that Dom met during a meet and greet, whose parents were not accepting of her, until they attended a YUNGBLUD show and saw the impact and support of the community, has the entire audience singing. It’s a poignant moment, especially when Harrison stops singing, and the crowd carry on the chorus, crying out, “Is there any life on mars?” acapella style. I feel the hairs on my arms stand on end. If there is any life on mars, I’m sure they could hear us.
Weird! feels like a really celebratory moment, especially considering it came out in the midst of the pandemic, and alludes to the weird times we’re living in. The crowd go mad when Harrison changes the lyrics to “wake up next to you in Bournemouth”, rather than the recorded reference to Glasgow. Latest single begins with another acapella sing along, apparently so good that YUNGBLUD exclaims, “f*cking hell, man, we’re coming to Bournemouth every week!”, once we’re done. The drums and guitars kick in and go again, this time with the instruments.
The show has been immaculately put together, and you can tell that one hell of a lot of effort has been put into the execution of it. There’s no stage production, but you don’t notice as Harrison’s exceptionally charismatic personality and mannerisms quite literally do the talking for him (not that he needs any talking doing for him - the show lasts around an hour and a half, but the tracks on the setlist don’t amount to this, yet his lengthy between song speeches that occur between every single song do). After he’s played Fleabag, he goes around the room telling everyone he loves them, singling individuals out and directly telling them how much they mean to him. I can only begin to imagine how over the moon they must have felt in that moment. Night, week, month, year made, I guess. Similarly, he reads out signs, one in which leads a young fan to the stage, in which he “signs her tits”. Again, I’m sure she was completely made up over this, however, I can’t help but begin to feel a pang of second hand embarrassment by this point, as it’s all become very panto-like, especially as when she exits the stage, he reminds her to see someone who is waiting on the sidelines to give her a t-shirt. Maybe I’m young and cynical, but from here, it begins to all feel like an evening family show at Haven Caravan Park. In addition to this, I can’t help but think about how Harrison doesn’t know these people he’s confessing his love to, nor do they really know him. Yet, my conflicting, less cynical view is that he is toying with the fact that these young people love and admire him on such a level, and feel that him and his music have seen them through such tough times, binding them to him through his songs and his messages of self-worth, acceptance and unity, that it is almost as if they do have an interpersonal relationship whereby they know everything about each other.
I much prefer this view, but as the show goes on, it does begin to adopt a bit of a heavily stage school influenced vibe about it; all the hands on hips, sticking his tongue out, shouting in elongated vowels. YUNGBLUD appears to be somewhat of a cliche of the definition of punk rock.
But it doesn’t take away from the music and utter energy that this show inhibits. Love Song is a heartbreaking track where Harrison outlines his conflict of loving another in the absence of his own self-love. The crowd is a sea of iPhone torches, and before he’s even started the opening chords, he’s crying. I Think (I’m Okay), a track originally performed alongside Machine Gun Kelly sees one of the biggest mosh pits of the night (although the winner is closer, Machine Gun (F*ck The NRA), where there is a f*ck covid chant activated, and a mosh pit to accompany), whereas Teresa, the song played directly after the encore, and sees YUNGBLUD’s third outfit change of the night, is half performed as a piano ballad on a piano covered with a Union Jack, topped with a plastic cup containing beer. Penultimate track, Charity, oozes with a heavily Britpop influenced melody, complete with Harrison gesturing in front of the microphone with a Liam Gallagher-esque swagger.
Whilst Bournemouth o2 Academy’s installment of the Life On Mars tour feels weirdly intimate, despite its not so intimate capacity, it simultaneously feels like it could be the o2 arena, or beyond. YUNGBLUD might not be able to fathom the idea that his fans know every word to every song, but he’s going to have to get used to it, as it’s only going to get bigger from here.