Photo: Daniel Mendoza/Recording Academy
Yungblud Talks Turning His Tour Postponement Into An Online Rock & Roll Variety Show
British rock hero Yungblud bounced into action when dates from his upcoming international tour were postponed due to the global coronavirus pandemic. In just 72 hours, he put together his own digital concert with a twist. The live audience-less "S**t's Weird Keep Calm and Carry On" is a late-night-TV-esqe live-streamed variety show, complete with guest appearances from rapper Machine Gun Kelly, actress/singer Bella Thorne and chef Oliver Tree, with plenty of extras like answering live questions from fans, playing a drinking game with his guests, a slapstick cooking segment, and more. Take a look:
"It was crazy!!! We literally played a stadium on the internet. It was them who blew the idea up so much. What started from an idea in my bedroom became a full production because of the fans. We're a family and it's them who allows me to do this s**t," Yungblud told the Recording Academy over email.
In a bold and extensive statement ahead of the event, Yungblud outlined why it was important to him to do something to honor his fans and keep the music from stopping.
"I woke up one morning after my shows were canceled and was like, 'You know what? F**k this.' I need to feel that connection and noise, that energy," Yungblud told Vulture. "There’s gonna be no literal noise from the audience, but there’s gonna be noise online. You’ll be able to comment on the livestream. I’m gonna be playing songs, gonna bring some of my friends out, do some skits, and do a late-night show — like a rock and roll version of f**kin’ Jimmy Kimmel. Try to give people a bit of positivity, laughter, and emotion."
What transpired was the rallying of production staff, special guests, and a way for everyone to keep going in some way in the face of touring coming to a halt.
"My team hasn’t slept because everything’s going crazy. When I had the idea for the livestream, they pulled it together so incredibly quick. There’s been rehearsals, a lighting rig, a full band, a camera crew, and audio. In a world that’s going wrong right now, we feel like we’re doing some good. It’s really inspiring everyone to work hard and tirelessly," he said. "At first I was gonna be like, “F**k it, I’m gonna stick some cameras up and do a rock and roll show.” But then my friends all started calling because they wanted to be involved. People in entertainment just wanna f**kin’ make people happy."
The show gave 20 production staff jobs when they would not have had one otherwise, and they rose to the occasion. "Everyone was so incredible to work with. we had to rethink the whole way we were doing our jobs because no one was allowed to really get near each other." Yungblud told us.
During the energetic live stream, Yungblud the frontman did his best to create a connection despite being in an empty sound stage. "Let me see your hands in the air in your bedroom," he said, encouraging fans to stand on top of their bed, kitchen table or couches at home and jump. With the occasional cartoonish piped-in crowd noise, drum rolls, rim-shots and coffee mugs appearing interstitially between high-energy, full-band rock performances, it made for the perfect late-night show parody meets rock and roll circus experience.
Musically, Yungblud delivered high-energy full band renditions of "Parents," "Anarchist," "I Love You, Will You Marry Me," "Original Me" and more, plus a touching acoustic version of "Casual Sabotage." MGK joined Yungblud, following an on-camera drinking game with Thorne, for "I Think I'm Okay" from Kelly's 2019 album, Hotel Diablo.
Fans responded to the chaos, comedy and rowdy rock show in kind, flooding the chat window with black heart emojis—a staple of Yungblud's—and praise for his energetic efforts to soothe their pain and connect from the California studio to wherever they were across the world. Ultimately, his message is one of love.
"The world is very, very weird now, so make sure you tell everyone you love that you love them," he said during the show.
"Even though I couldn’t hear them, I felt the noise!"
The 22-year-old artist closed the 60+ minute show with inspired performances of "Hope For The Underrated Youth" and "Machine Gun (F**k The N.R.A.)," making strong statements for what music can do and say, especially now.
"As artists, we have to shift and adapt to what’s going on in culture. You just have to make it work. I think that’s what true artists will do. It’s a time to not give up and think out of the box—out of bad situations and despair comes incredible art, no matter what form that may be," Yungblud said. "I’m excited to see what happens."
When we caught up with Yungblud in the aftermath of the show, still glowing from the experience, we asked what he thinks is next for artists trying to find a new way forward.
"I think right now is about out-of-the-box thinking about how we can connect with people without being in the same room as them. The world is in such a weird, weird, scary place. However, out of dark times comes great art. I just wanted to provide humor, hope and a little bit of light for people who feel uneasy," he said. "Even though I couldn’t hear them, I felt the noise!"