YUNGBLUD•Jean Dawson•Sophie Powers•August 3, 2023• The Complex
Reviewed and Photographed by Max Taylor
On August 3rd, 2023, the Doncaster, England legend, Dominic Richard Harrison – more famously known as YUNGBLUD – performed at The Complex in Salt Lake City, Utah. This show has been long anticipated by Utah YUNGBLUD fans. Considering the last time he made an appearance here was his sold-out show at The Complex in 2019(certainly not without trying though). The cancellation of shows in 2020, a giant snowstorm that got them stuck between Denver and Salt Lake in 2022, and other scheduling conflicts only added to the excitement, buzz, and anticipation to see the young rockstar return to the Beehive State.
Devout fans began arriving early in the morning to line up before the sun had even risen to assure their spot on the venue’s barricade. To be as close as possible during the concert. Many fans had traveled from places like California, Nevada, and Arizona to see YUNGBLUD perform. Within YUNGBLUD’s fanbase called the Black Hearts Club, you will find people of all ages, genders, sexualities, and walks of life coming together to witness such an energetic performance, and to connect with new people who share such a deep love for the music YUNGBLUD has created.
One signal that will let you know you’re at a YUNGBLUD gig is if you see lots of pink socks. The artist himself is rarely if ever seen not wearing pink socks. Another signal would be your classic creepers, the iconic shoe that is another YUNGBLUD fan essential. But most importantly, you will find yourself surrounded by people full of kindness, love, and joy.
As a devout YUNGBLUD fan myself, never have I found a community within the music industry that has such a meaningful connection with the artist. I will never forget when I first stumbled upon one of his music videos on YouTube. There was just something that got me immediately hooked. I couldn’t stop listening to his music, watching the music videos, finding all the interviews and articles I could to learn more about this YUNGBLUD fellow. Since first discovering YUNGBLUD, I’ve had the opportunity to see him over ten times traveling all over to be able to experience his shows.
YUNGBLUD has always made a concerted effort to connect with and show appreciation for his fans, whether it be through surprise Facetime calls, responding to comments on social media, sending surprises in the mail, coming out after shows to greet fans, the list goes on. In 2021, I was offered the opportunity to be a guest on the YUNGBLUD Podcast where he would talk with fans one on one. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts on my end, I was unable to be featured on the podcast episode.
Some time went by and in 2022, I had the opportunity to drive to Pomona, California, and be in his music video for his song titled “The Funeral”. The music video featuring Ozzy Osbourne premiered in March of 2022 and I remember seeing the moment in the video when I was filmed moshing right next to YUNGBLUD in a crowd of fans. It was absolutely surreal, something I will never forget.
Another crazy experience I had was in September 2022 when YUNGBLUD was getting ready to release his third album, titled YUNGBLUD. In the process of promoting the record, he was playing at record stores across the U.S., but the closest one to me was in Long Beach, California on September 6th. THEN he announced that on September 8th he would be playing three shows in one night on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles to celebrate the recent release of the new album. So it was decided. Thankfully because of YUNGBLUD I had plenty of friends in California who would be there, so I booked my flight and had one of the best weeks of my life.
We went to the two record store gigs, then went and camped outside the Viper Room for two days which was the first venue he’d be playing the night of the 8th for his night of occupying the Sunset Strip, after which he’d be playing the Whiskey a Go Go and Roxy Theatre.
That same week I had the opportunity to see him perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Needless to say, it is an absolutely insane and unforgettable time to be alive with YUNGBLUD. These experiences on top of others, such as the times I’ve met him through free meet and greets or was interviewed by the British-American journalist Louis Theroux for a documentary about YUNGBLUD all mean the world to me and are prime examples of all that YUNGBLUD does to connect with this wonderful community that continues to grow exponentially.
In an LA crowd at the Roxy Theatre, he recognized me and started shaking his head. Knowing I was from Utah, YUNGBLUD said “Utah baby, Yeee fuckin’ hah. Yeeeee FUCKIN HAH.” His guitarist played a little riff and then YUNGBLUD sang the line, “Like a rhinestone cowboy!!!!” from that Glen Campbell song.
Just this past April, he pulled up at a venue in Del Mar, California that I had camped overnight at for one of his gigs, rolled down his window, and without me saying a word, goes, “Hey Max, how ya doing?” I can’t take any of this for granted, but it does fill me with gratitude. And the opportunity to write this review is an opportunity for me to do a lot of reflection, which I appreciate. I didn’t think that professionally photographing a YUNGBLUD show was on my bingo card for 2023, so when I got the call, I had to say yes.
Back to the day of his show at the Complex. I spent the day in line, meeting with people and photographing fans, and it was such a pleasure. Despite the hot weather and dusty construction across the street from The Complex, everyone was having such a wonderful time. YUNGBLUD music was blasting, one fan was handing out YUNGBLUD bracelets they had made, and multiple groups of other people cut out over 400 pink paper hearts to hand out so fans could hold the heart in front of their phone flash during the songs “Kill Somebody” and “Sweet Heroine” to light up the venue. As it got closer to doors, you could feel the electricity in the air. The anticipation and excitement you feel before a YUNGBLUD show is something that never goes away, no matter how many times you see him perform.
It was my time to head into the venue. On my way in, I ran into Benjamin Jackson, YUNGBLUD’s guitar tech and stage manager. We always have the most random, funny, and awkward interactions, but I think they appreciate it when we try to express our gratitude for all the work they do on these tours.
Now the doors were open. It was fun to watch fans make their way to the barricade, trying not to run, but definitely speed walking faster than any speed walkers I’ve seen before. I’m normally in their shoes, so it was a fun experience watching from a different perspective.
As The Complex continued to fill up, the energy and excitement continued to build. It was fun and so special for me to be at his show here in Salt Lake City after it being so long since he had performed in Utah and grown so much. I stood there, just watching people. Friends, couples, kids, you name it. Observing the joy on their faces for being at a YUNGBLUD show even if it hadn’t even begun. There was something in the eyes of the fans that night I don’t have the words to describe, but it was some type of excitement that was very special.
A thought that came to my mind as I watched the fans file in is that sometimes in life, you might feel alone. Sometimes we feel like that a lot. But shows like this are a good reminder that we are never alone. Music is such a force for good and connection and community. I loved looking around and seeing all the YUNGBLUD merch people were wearing, knowing that these people also love someone that I love. These people’s lives have also been impacted by music that has made a huge imprint on my heart. YUNGBLUD’s lyrics, messages, and advocacy for love, courage, and acceptance is something that I see making a difference in people’s lives.
Jean Dawson and Sophie Powers
We were graced with the presence of two openers for the evening. Sophie Powers kicked the evening off with a bang. An artist as well as a fashion designer who doesn’t care what you call her music, she just wants to make you feel with the mission of “reinjecting genuine emotion into a pop landscape that is more alienated than ever”. If you need a hype-queen, some bad bitch energy, are going through a breakup or looking for some new music, I definitely recommend checking out her single, “Nosebleed” which was released this past March.
The second opener was Jean Dawson and when I tell you I was shocked, I was shook. Not knowing anything about either opener, I was going in pretty blind, and Jean Dawson knocked my pink socks right off. The stage presence, the vocals, everything about their performance made me want to dance all night. Delusional world champion is a track from him you do not want to miss, go listen to it right now. Well, maybe finish reading this and then go listen because you won’t be able to stop dancing.
After two amazing openers, the time was close and the energy was high. As soon as the lights went dark, the cheers of the crowd erupted in a roar that probably shook the foundation of the venue. The lights started flashing and the roar got even louder as the band(Ben Sharp, Adam Warrington, and Silke Blansjaar) entered the stage. On a giant LED screen that was the backdrop for the stage, a silhouette of YUNGBLUD appeared. The silhouette had devil horns and two big wings coming out from behind. All of a sudden, he then came running onto the stage full of his exuberant, lively stage presence. The crowd was going absolutely wild!
YUNGBLUD came out rocking the black Willy Wonka-esqe sunglass goggles, a black and white striped long sleeve underneath a black cropped tank top with the words STAR FUCKER on it, custom black Chrome hearts shorts, knee-high skull socks under his pink socks, and black creepers. YUNGBLUD is notoriously known for getting injured because he can go so crazy and loves performing, so some of us might have been holding our breath hoping he didn’t get hurt.
All those fears were quickly gone as his energy infected the entire audience and everyone was jumping on their feet as his song 21st Century Liability launched the show into an epic opening. YUNGBLUD’s album 21st Century Liability turned 5 years old just this past month, and so I couldn’t think of a better way to start.
If you’re at a YUNGBLUD gig, get ready to be jumping a lot, sweating a lot of that good concert sweat, and getting to know your neighbors real well because the pit gets packed. The image of him yelling, “WIDDDAAAAAA”, in his iconic British accent, to open the pit, is forever ingrained in my memory. A YUNGBLUD gig wouldn’t be a YUNGBLUD gig if you didn’t have a beer splash zone when he decides to occasionally throw or spit some onto the crowd(the best kind of splash zones for YUNGBLUD fans) or a moment where he has you find someone new and tell ‘em that you love ‘em.
You might even be lucky and have him choose you to come on stage and decide what song he should play next. At this show, he brought up a fan named Lazer with awesome pink hair and gave them the option of choosing Psychotic Kids or Medication to be the next song. Both from Lazer and the audience, it was a surrounding yes for Medication(although I think everyone would agree, it is so hard to choose a favorite when YUNGBLUD’s discography is amazing from start to finish).
During “Fleabag” and “Strawberry Lipstick”, the guitarist Adam was absolutely shredding so hard. He came up right next to the edge of the stage and the crowd couldn’t get enough of the way his fingers were absolutely destroying that guitar. Ben, the drummer, knows how to absolutely destroy a drum set, the legend can flip and throw those sticks like no one’s business. And although you can’t see her face when her hair is down, Silke, the bassist, has added such an epic dynamic to the group since joining on tour this year. Together, along with the rest of the team(big shout out to Tom, Adam, Ed, Ben, Jules, and Jesse), YUNGBLUD is truly on the way to take over the world.
There were a variety of signs people were holding in the audience. Some said LOWLIFE, YUNGBLUD’s most recent release. Another sign said “PHX to SLC! Worth it!” At one point during the gig, YUNGBLUD had everyone put their arms around the people next to them and sway back and forth and let me tell you, I got emotional looking over the crowd and seeing such a unified group of music lovers. I saw some kids on their parent’s shoulders with their big ear protection on and their eyes in absolute awe as they watched the show.
During his songs “Kill Somebody” and “Sweet Heroine”, which both deal with subjects of mental health, addiction and struggles in relationships. As fans held those pink paper hearts against their phone lights and lit up the room, I couldn’t help but let the tears flow. There were so many beautiful moments tonight, it’s hard to capture it all in either photos or words.
I plead with you if you haven’t been to a YUNGBLUD show, it will literally change your life. As I was taking photos during the concert, I couldn’t help but continue to sing along and even scream along to the songs because of how much they mean to me. The final song of the night was YUNGBLUD’s most recent release: “LOWLIFE”. The music video came out the same day as this concert, which I think is awesome. And although the mic cut out partway through the performance, he kept the energy going so well and the crowd was singing so loud, despite the technological hiccup(which I’m sure upset YUNGBLUD quite a bit), everything was still so good.
His smiling face, his tears, his energy. The connection between YUNGBLUD and his crowds are always so impactful. After the show he even ran out to say hi to fans and give people hugs. Although it was brief, his smile and laugh are so infectious. Truly a wonderful soul. He is already playing even bigger in the UK, so in 2024 I know we will be seeing even bigger things from him. Thank you for reading, and like I said before, go see YUNGBLUD and join the Black Hearts Club. Get yourself some pink socks, be yourself, and love each other.
“Just call on me and I’ll be there, you’ll see
Meet me at the mezzanine at three”