The floor was pumping, the crowd was abuzz with pre-gig excitement and chatter; and the moment Wild Youth set foot upon the stage, the place was on their feet. From the opening notes in Kilkenny’s Set Theatre; the band, and in particular frontman Dave Whelan, put on a show to behold; and a reminder of the joy that live music can bring to the world.
They opened the show with the anthemic, stadium worthy Weekend Rockstars, one of the many tracks they played across the night from this year’s ‘Forever Girl’ EP. It set the tone for a night of pulsing melodies, hard drums and plenty of sing-songs. Phelan had everyone in the palm of his hand, as he swayed across the stage, dressed in bootcut denim and a linen white shirt that somehow seemed to become more undone with every passing song. The predominantly female watchers-on loved it, with shouts of ‘take it off’ filling the air between each track.
From there, the band ran through the hits like they’d never been gone. Unlike most bands, Wild Youth hadn’t really ever gone away. With almost every song they played, your mind was snapped back to the TV advertisement it appeared on. Without much notice, they’d soundtracked lockdown. Tracks such as Making Me Dance and Can’t Move On burst into life; and their catchy choruses glistened more than ever before. It’s clear that the imposed break has breathed new life into the band; highlighted in no small way with their performance of the wonderfully-bright unreleased track Summer.
One of the most popular tracks of the evening was Champagne Butterflies, a carefree blend of old-school funk and more pop elements, detailing the butterflies that come in the early stages of a relationship. It was almost impossible not to dance, and with Whelan urging everyone on their feet, it would have been rude not to.
Sonically, the band were on point throughout, the only hiccup coming at the beginning of a pared back version of Wasted Without You, where band member Conor O’Donoghue had to coach Whelan through the opening lines. “I always forget the words to this” the singer quipped, before restarting what was probably one of the personal songs of the evening.
Another special moment came when before jumping into their song Through The Phone, O’Donoghue urged everyone who was missing a loved one or whose friends couldn’t come to facetime them and let them share in the moment. Seeing one fan on the phone, he welcomed her to the stage, and rested the phone (which quickly turned into phones) on his piano.
As the set came to an end, and the chorus of Can’t Move On rang around the room; the band all took a moment to soak it in. “You have no idea how much we’ve missed this” Whelan added before the song’s conclusion, but it wasn’t just the band who had missed it. For everyone there, the night marked something different. Their first night out, their first time meeting old friends in months, or their first time at a show in the new normal. Whatever it was, it was special to see everyone put that all behind them and dance the night away. At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun and Wild Youth certainly delivered.