You Me At Six @ O2 Academy, 22nd November 2018

It’s been ten years since Surrey rock outfit You Me At Six released their pop-punk styled breakthrough debut album ‘Take Off Your Colours’ and they’re currently on tour performing it in full to mark the milestone. However, this show doesn’t fit under that umbrella, and tonight’s performance in Birmingham is one of a small handful in which they’re instead playing tracks from their other five albums including this year’s diverse ‘VI’.

Album opener ‘Fast Forward’ is a perfect opener – a slick, fiery track that’s built for arenas, and despite the relatively cosy atmosphere, You Me At Six’s show is essentially an arena-sized production with huge LED lights and a tiered stage which gives frontman Josh Franceschi space to command the front of the stage.  He is flanked by guitarists Max and Chris with the rest of the band taking their positions on the rear platforms. ‘Lived A Lie’ follows next, acting as a bridge to the band’s pop-punk beginnings with polished guitars and an anthemic chorus of which 30 Seconds To Mars would be proud.   Josh leads the audience in singing “we are believers” and the crowd lap it up wholeheartedly.

Over the years the band have adapted their sound quite a lot, so there’s quite a mixed variety of styles in the set, with poppy radio-friendly tracks like ‘Reckless’ sitting alongside the riff-heavy likes of ‘Night People’ and ‘Loverboy’.  The one constant is Josh’s impressive vocals, strong without going too overboard and combined with a charismatic stage presence. The curveballs keep coming, with ‘Back Again’ an all-out indie/pop crossover reminiscent of Coldplay, and Josh asks the crowd to “raise your lights” for ballads ‘Cold Night’ and ‘Take On The World’. Visually the whole performance is captivating, with the stage filled with smoke and lights for the catchy ‘3AM’ before the band close the main part of their set with ‘Give’ and the chart-baiting ‘IOU’.

When the band return for their encore, they seem to focus on playing songs with more of a straight-ahead alt-rock sound, with ‘Room To Breathe’ and ‘Bite My Tongue’ cranking up the guitars and providing crunchy riffs for a less clinical but easy to engage with sound. When the anthemic ‘Underdog’ brings the show to a close, the audience almost drown out the band with their singing and there’s certainly a lot of love for what these guys do. The anniversary shows on this tour might be a celebration of the band’s past, but with tonight’s set there’s a strong feeling that we’ve just witnessed the real You Me At Six.

The supporting bill on this tour is excellent, with two homegrown acts who have proved themselves to be fantastic live acts on their day. If you caught Marmozets over the festival season or on their headline tour for second album ‘Knowing What You Know Now’, you’ll know they can be an excitingly intense experience, with plenty of big riffs and choruses to back it up, and right from the beginning with ‘Play’, drummer Josh stands up on his drumkit and vocalist Becca tries her best to get the crowd motivated.

Unfortunately for some reason tonight, the venue’s sound is abysmal at the front of the crowd, resulting in the drums overpowering the guitars on ‘Why Do You Hate Me?’ and the quirky ‘Like A Battery’, making it hard to really make the songs out properly. Marmozets are the kind of band who feed off the crowd atmosphere to step up their performance levels, and tonight they just don’t quite get what they need to be at their very best. As the venue fills up towards the end of their set and some of the sound issues improve, things get better with ‘Move, Shake, Hide’ and ‘Meant To Be’ before the crowd finally wake up to get involved for closer ‘Major System Error’. The band are fantastic despite tonight’s challenges, but when they’re truly on form they’re on another level completely.

Aberdeen trio The Xcerts have been around for quite a while now, releasing their fourth album ‘Hold On To Your Heart’ earlier this year which saw them shift to a more cinematic power-pop sound from their alt-rock roots. They play a very short set tonight consisting entirely of songs from that album, and they get off to a good start with the expansive sound of ‘Daydream’ and ‘Drive Me Wild’ reminiscent of The Gaslight Anthem or modern Bruce Springsteen, and singer/guitarist Murray Macleod dropping to his knees to play a solo on ‘We Are Gonna Live’.

The crowd are a little unresponsive this early in the evening but the band keep it simple and carry on with bassist Jordan taking keyboard duties for ‘Show Me Beautiful’ before Murray suggests “let’s dance” ahead of ‘Crazy’. Telling the audience that they’re having a better time than the last time they played here and someone let off a stink bomb during their set, they finish on a high note with the catchy ‘Feels Like Falling In Love’ as Murray sings the final chorus on his own after the band have finished up. It’s not enough time to really make much of a big impression, but it’s a decent start to the evening nonetheless.

Reviewer: Ian Paget

Photographer: Ian Dunn

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