Yungblud, Wembley Arena, review: pick’n’mix pop and vapid politics

Yungblud on stage at Wembley Arena - Redferns
Yungblud on stage at Wembley Arena - Redferns

“Wembley!” Yungblud screamed into the heaving depths of London’s 12,500-capacity arena on Saturday night. “I’ve waited my whole f______ life to say that.” The Doncaster singer, real name Dominic Harrison, was triumphantly concluding his first UK arena tour, a feat he has pulled off without ever troubling the singles chart.

Harrison's second and third albums, including last year’s self-titled effort, did touch the No 1 spot: catchy, bratty guitar pop with a commercial gleam, marketed at teens. But his leap to success owes more to his Black Hearts Club, a fan community built on inclusivity and acceptance – all misfits welcome. Concert attendees are encouraged to air their personal traumas, from addiction to sexuality. On this tour he has provided a mental health safe space at every venue; at Wembley, a fan brandished a sign that read “You saved me”.

“My biggest fear playing rooms this size is that I wouldn’t feel close to you anymore,” Harrison confessed to Saturday night’s devout audience. He needn’t have worried. He is a skilled live entertainer: an exhaustingly animated rock’n’roller who had Wembley wrapped around his finger.

It looked as if 2000s-era Camden had vomited all over the show, from Harrison's eyeliner and brothel creepers to the music: a pick’n’mix bag of pop-rock forebears (My Chemical Romance, The Cure, that Oasis whine) with the inevitable ensuing sugar crash. The set began well enough. Pyrotechnics and constant instructions to jump accompanied opener 21st Century Liability, Harrison’s 2018 emo-rap debut, followed by Billy-Idol-meets-Busted hit The Funeral and Parents, a shoddy song that lit up the arena as much as the fire licking the sides of the grimily-decked stage.

Amid 19 instances of cheese-grater vocals and screeching guitar, though, not even a stint on a mini-stage resembling the bathroom of Camden’s grottiest watering hole – where Harrison sat on a toilet, smoked a cigarette, and read a story – nor the equally The 1975-ish autotune of I Cry 2 could provide relief. A solo piano jaunt during Sweet Heroine showed promise, until its full-band refrain took on a nightmarish number of repetitions.

Harrison's heart is in the right place, but his brand of self-love and “eat the rich” politics comes across as particularly vapid. He’s obviously born to play arenas and stadiums. What he’ll do with that talent when he’s outgrown the genre and audience he’s marketed towards remains to be seen. For now, like the savviest politicians, his look and message are clear to the point of parody, ensuring people will relate – and at Wembley, that sense of connection won out.

No further UK dates. Touring Europe and the US until summer, tickets here