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Australia’s leader goes to indie rock gig, chugs a beer, gets cheers

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the Garma Festival on July 29 in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. (Aaron Bunch/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
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MELBOURNE, Australia — Sitting in the crowd, the guy in a dark shirt chugged a beer as he watched an alternative-rock band perform in his hometown.

But this wasn’t any ordinary concertgoer — it was Australia’s prime minister, Anthony Albanese.

Albo, as he is known here, was spotted in the seated section of Sydney’s Enmore Theater, a venue in his electorate where the band Gang of Youths performed on Monday night. He was with his partner, Jodie Haydon, and Australia’s employment and workplace relations minister, Tony Burke.

And he got a welcome more befitting of a rock star than a politician.

Albanese briefly stole the show as he downed his beer to raucous applause and pointed at the empty cup for his audience. Subsequent Twitter commentary also approvingly noted his Joy Division T-shirt, after a video of his appearance was shared widely.

Australia’s prime minister is something of a cult figure in his area of Sydney’s inner west, a historically working-class region that has steadily gentrified. A local brewery even named a beer in his honor.

Who is Anthony Albanese, the new Australian prime minister?

His gig attendance on Monday was in keeping with his music-loving public image. When he was an opposition lawmaker, “DJ Albo” appeared behind the decks at charity events and on breakfast television. And when Albanese hosted New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Sydney recently, the pair exchanged a haul of vinyl records.

Albanese has even said he would DJ for Fatman Scoop “if I can” at the American artist’s November performance in Brisbane. The rapper made a surprise appearance on Australian radio on Thursday and ambushed the prime minister with the unusual request.

Yet Albanese’s public carousing this week was met with a markedly different response compared with that of Finnish leader Sanna Marin recently. A leaked video that showed Marin dancing with friends sparked debate in Finland and internationally about the appropriateness of a national leader partying.

Marin, a 36-year-old woman, faced blowback that did not appear to materialize with Albanese, a 59-year-old man. Marin took a drug test and released the negative result, and she defended her right to have fun with her friends. “I hope that in the year 2022, it’s accepted that even decision-makers dance, sing and go to parties,” she said on Friday.

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But in Australia, the country that brought the world the “shoey” — drinking alcohol out of someone’s used, sweaty footwear — Albanese’s mere glass of beer was perhaps seen as mild fare.

It is not known whether his drinking pace rivaled that of one of his political forebears, former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke, who was recognized with a Guinness World Record for drinking a yard glass of ale in 11 seconds while studying at the University of Oxford in 1954. Hawke, who died in 2019, was once captured on video downing beer at a cricket game at a hair-raising — but crowd-pleasing — rate of knots.

Albanese became prime minister in May after his center-left Labor Party won elections after nine years of conservative rule. He has since focused on pushing for steeper carbon emissions cuts, tackling inflation and smoothing over Australia’s frosty relations with China.

Polls published this week show Albanese enjoying overwhelming popularity three months after the election, leading his conservative rival Peter Dutton 55 percent to 17 percent as preferred prime minister.