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Review

Luke Hemmings at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 16/05/24

The 5 Seconds Of Summer frontman brings his nostalgic solo show to London for a night of wistful, melancholic pop


Following in the footsteps of countless boyband members before him, in 2021 Luke Hemmings stepped out into the realm of solo stardom. Best known as the frontman of Sydney pop-rock chart-toppers 5 Seconds Of Summer, his debut album When Facing The Things We Turn Away From introduced an emotive, melancholic style of synth-laden pop, worlds away from the sounds he and his bandmates have been pumping into sold-out arenas for the last twelve years.

Rich orchestration and shimmering guitars layered with whispering vocals; the singer’s latest EP boy is an introspective reflection on the complexities of growing older. Uncovering emotions and experiences from his younger years and unpacking them from the perspective of a 27-year-old, freshly married man, it’s an ode to healing and growth, simultaneously intimate and deeply universal.

Bringing his solo show to UK shores in celebration of his latest era, as the ethereal notes of opener ‘A Beautiful Dream’ sound out, flickering white lights shine on a room of faces decorated with glittering eye make-up, emulating the look modelled by Hemmings on the EP’s cover. Confetti bursting out as the singer-songwriter strums the summery melodies of 2021 track ‘Motion’ before the reflective ‘Saigon’ closes out with a cathartic singalong, Hemmings takes an opportunity to welcome a sold-out Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

“Good evening and welcome… I’m Luke,” he announces modestly.

“Welcome to the Nostalgia For A Time That Never Existed tour.”

Stepping away from his bandmates for the first time, as he flits between hinting at his rockstar tendencies and showcasing his softer side, Hemmings is a natural. From the delicate musings of ballads ‘Place In Me’, ‘Comedown’, and ‘Mum’ that see phone lights waved in the air, to the driving guitar-driven euphoria of cuts ‘Diamonds’, ‘Benny’, and ‘Garden Life’, the former London resident seems remarkably at home.

A decade since Hemmings last stood upon this stage – now familiar with stopping by the much larger O2 Arena whenever he and his bandmates are in town – the intimate setting lends itself perfectly to the evening’s dreamy reflections on life and love. Sandwiching a vibrant cover of The Cure’s ‘Friday I’m In Love’ between the wistful ‘Promises’ and longing single ‘Shakes’, after Hemmings has thanked his touring band and crew – acknowledging that despite appearances, he’s not doing this entirely alone – the night draws to a close.

The room’s voices overpowering the singer’s falsetto notes on beautifully candid EP opener ‘I’m Still Your Boy’, the soft piano intro of breakout single ‘Starting Line’ burst into an anthemic chorus, a flurry of lights dancing around the stage. Finding a middle ground between nostalgia and euphoria, as the crowd disperse showered in a final bust of confetti, there’s no doubt that they’ve just witnessed something truly special.