Although having released their sixth album earlier this year, nostalgia is the primary focus for You Me At Six tonight. It’s been ten years since the release of their debut album, Take Off Your Colours, so as is customary these days, a celebratory tour is in order. Make no mistake, the millennials that have aged with the band are out in force, but there are plenty of teens in attendance as well. It’s a testament to the Surrey lads’ ongoing commercial success that their fanbase continues to expand with each successive release.
After all, their last four albums have all cracked the top five in the UK charts. So, unlike many similar tours that come across as cynical attempts at cash grabs, YMAS don’t need to revisit the past. This feels like an appreciation of their followers, in returning to the record that many would consider one of their most beloved. Regardless of your opinions of them, you can’t accuse the lads of desperately trying to shake off their roots so as to adhere to modern day trends – there’s a few of their contemporaries that do come to mind, though.
First up tonight are Dublin based alternative rockers, Greywind. These guys are something of a revelation. Although officially a two-piece, the touring line-up fills up the ranks into a more “conventional” formation – and they’re pretty sensational live. Elements of early Jimmy Eat World’s ambience are married successfully with the post-hardcore bite of the riffing, bolstered by some rather instantaneous chorus melodies. Frontwoman Steph O’Sullivan is a captivating stage presence; an onstage persona of manic-pixie-dreamgirl with an edge, matched with a remarkably distinctive voice. With songs as sonically powerful as “Car Spin”, there’s the potential for great things here. Unfortunately, due to early doors, Greywind play to a relatively modest crowd, but they make themselves known in a big way.
It’s been a pretty good year for The Xcerts. Their fourth album, Hold On To Your Heart, was met with rapturous critical acclaim, and is definitely among the upper echelons of this year’s releases. The Scottish trio are clearly aware they’re on to something special, as their set is comprised solely of songs from the new album. And every one of them is a banger. “Drive Me Wild”, “Crazy” and the stunning, pulsating title track are wonderfully recreated in the live environment, with each of those sugary but substantial power pop choruses given new life when accompanied by several hundred people. Guitarist and vocalist Murray Macleod is part heartthrob, part nineties alternative icon, and it doesn’t take long before the audience is won over by his idiosyncratic charm. Closing with an acapella reprise of the refrain from the massive “Feels Like I’m Falling In Love”, the band cements their status as one of the most invigorating acts in the current British rock scene,
The Limelight is packed to the rafters well before the headliners take the stage. By the time YMAS blast into “Truth Is A Terrible Thing”, the coiled anticipation has already exploded into a sea of cascaded beers and jiggling torsos. With every
passing song from Take Off Your Colours, the crowd erupts into jubilation at the recognition of the next upbeat intro. The very nature of an album anniversary show means the element of surprise is lost when it comes to the setlist, but it doesn’t seem to hamper anyone’s enjoyment. Bizarrely enough, for some in the audience it appears that the occasion has been completely lost on them – there are several moments of individuals turning to a companion for the reassurance of, “Hang on, are they playing TOYC in full?” The penny drops about four or five songs in.
Recent years have seen YMAS move away from the pop-punk sound that dominated their debut, leaning more heavily into more alternative, indie and even synth-based territories. This makes seeing them revisit their older sound that much more of a novelty. And yet, they don’t feel out of step, even for a moment. Songs like “Call That A Comeback” and “If You Run” possess a touch more grit and weight in the guitar tone than on record, alongside the greater control of melody that maturity has afforded frontman Josh Franceschi. The peak of the run-through comes with the crowd-pleasing “Save It For The Bedroom”, unrivalled in terms of audience participation by any of the TOYC era songs.
The encore essentially acts as a “best of the rest”, including a number of bonus tracks from the US version of TOYC, of which “Finders Keepers” goes down phenomenally well. However, as effective as the first half of their set was, the shift to the recent material from the new album VI demonstrably reflects where YMAS see themselves as a rock band today. The electronic and slinking vibes of “IOU”, “Straight To My Head” and “Fast Forward” are definitely a departure, but feature enough of an emphasis on the punchy choruses to not feel too estranged from the anniversary material. Commendably for YMAS, each one of these songs is just as enthusiastically received by the crowd, if not more.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest is saved for last with the ever-dependable “Underdog.” Thus culminates a set that can be appreciated on a number of levels: as an observation of a band’s development from pop-punk upstarts into mainstream rock successes, as an exercise in noughties’ nostalgia, and simply as an evening of great live music.
Review by : Jonni Davidson
Photography by : Darren Mcveigh