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Luke Hemmings Took Us to Wonderland at the Fonda

By Maryjane Perez | 21 June 2023

Luke Hemmings performing at the Fonda in Los Angeles

On June 8th and 9th, Luke Hemmings– frontman of Australian pop rock band 5 Seconds of Summer–took the stage as a solo act for the first time, performing at the Fonda Theatre in the heart of Hollywood.

Hemmings always brings an energetic presence to the stage when performing with his bandmates (Ashton Irwin, Calum Hood, and Michael Clifford) so I was eager to see what he would do on his own. His solo album, When Facing the Things We Turn Away From, is much more somber than the band's music. I anticipated a more stripped-down performance, and I was right.

After hours of waiting in line, fans flooded into the venue to await the start of the show. As the lights dimmed down and excitement buzzed through the air, smoke floated onto the stage and the spacey synths of “A Beautiful Dream” filled our ears. A song about time passing by too quickly and not wanting to forget precious memories along the way, it set the tone for an evening that felt like quite a beautiful dream.

He effortlessly transitioned into the next few tracks: “Motion,” “Saigon,” and “Comedown.” Though it is still laced with melancholy, “Comedown” offers a twinkle of hope that the other songs on the album lack, which makes it one of my favorites from the record. Screaming the lyrics, “Let it come down on me / Let me see all the things that I was supposed to see” was a cathartic moment for me (and I’m sure it was for many of those around me).

Luke Hemmings performing at the Fonda in Los Angeles

A special moment during the show was during the song “Place In Me” in which Hemmings sings the line “You’ll always have a place in me.” Fans were given paper hearts to hold up with messages or lyrics for Hemmings.

The entire show had so far been heartwrenching, hypnotic, and intense, yet somehow it managed to intensify halfway through the set. There was an eerie feeling that settled over the crowd as Hemmings sank into Bloodline.” It was the quietest I’ve ever witnessed a concert audience be. Nothing but Hemmings’ hushed vocals and guitar strums filled the room. It was a ghostly scene that mimicked the song’s feelings of isolation and hopelessness almost too perfectly.

Continuing the set, Hemmings surprises fans with a cover of “Friday I’m In Love” by The Cure—an interesting choice, but it offered a moment of relief from the heaviness of the other songs. It was the only time I found myself joyfully dancing as opposed to the “sad dancing” Hemmings referenced earlier in the night.

Okay, I lied. “Baby Blue” allowed for a bit of joyful dancing (but not without its moments of sad swaying!). This song makes my list of “best songs live” by any artist I’ve seen in concert. The blue lighting created a dystopian feeling and the lyrics “I wanna stay here forever” perfectly captured my sentiments about being at a concert. The track is all about wanting to find an escape and stay in that place of escapism for whatever amount of time necessary. Hemmings referred to this escape as going off into wonderland.

This comment made for a moment of reflection. For me, wonderland is live music. Concerts are a place to feel connected, understood, and present in the moment. All of life’s worries and stressors wash away and for a brief moment, everything I feel is released.

The greatest relief at the Fonda came with the final song of the night, “Starting Line.” I felt a mixture of reluctance in having to leave soon, a rush of adrenaline, and a bittersweet feeling settling in my chest. I was taken back to when the song was first released and I listened to it on repeat. It felt surreal to finally be hearing it live after two years (and all the uncertainty of if we would ever hear it live!).

The lyrics burst from the crowd in a half-singing, half-shouting way. An electric energy zipped through the venue and a sense of urgency crept in. It was our, and Hemmings’, last chance to give it all we had. It felt like our life depended on this moment. There was no other option but to surrender to this song completely. So we did. Confetti fell into the crowd as one of the best, and perhaps most cathartic, concerts of my life came to an end.

There are very few shows that leave me feeling raw and completely exposed in a way that is both uncomfortable and relieving. Hemmings’ music places the audience into the thick of emotion and rough feelings, allowing us to take off our masks. To sit with our thoughts. To feel less alone in the mess of our minds and our hardships. To face the things we too often turn away from.

He thanked the crowd for embracing the album, whether it has made us feel “good, bad, or understood.” I felt all three of these things.

Hemmings is a vulnerable songwriter and performer. He does not shy away from darker themes and instead dives deep into his vulnerable experiences and mental health struggles, sparing no details. This level of honesty is refreshing, humanizing, and validating. Though he does not have any more solo performances lined up, I highly recommend catching him at a 5SOS show on their upcoming tour The 5 Seconds of Summer Show.


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