by Peter Stewart
This week, You Me At Six frontman Josh Franceschi took to Twitter to express his outrage at a review published on The Guardian’s website of YMAS live in London.
Decrying the piece, which bewilderingly branded the band ‘pop-metal’, Franceschi wrote: “This review is just such poor journalism. What a waste of time you coming. Don’t bother in future.” Was this really poor journalism, singling out an easy target in a semi-famous act that polarises opinion? Or have YMAS indeed become an “utterly generic, entirely unremarkable arena-rock band”, as Ian Gittins concluded? Brig were there to find out in Glasgow last Thursday.
Generic or not, it cannot be argued that You Me At Six have not progressed exponentially in their twelve years as a band. The Surrey five-piece’s debut album ‘Take Off Your Colours’ was a derivative slice of pop-punk that may have delighted fans of the genre, but did not transport them further than modest-sized venues around the UK or Kerrang! TV.
Latest effort ‘Night People’, released in January, continues the redevelopment of YMAS as a band regularly to be heard on BBC Radio 1, or headlining stages at the country’s most prestigious festivals.
With Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic world tour taking in the second of two nights at The SSE Hydro, YMAS were shunted into the neighbouring SECC.
While it is unlikely Franceschi and co. could have justified the 13,000 capacity ‘second busiest venue in the world’, they might have at least hoped to be afforded the Exhibition Centre’s cavernous Hall 4 – as it is, they are relegated to the smaller Hall 3, devoid of seating and big screens. It is perhaps three-quarters full – there were still tickets available on the night.
Opening with the title track from ‘Night People’, a staple of mainstream airwaves since release, the band settle in with its safe, hard-rock groove and vague refrain: “We are night people, roaming through streets”. Gittins would undoubtedly scoff at its banality; but in a dark room on a cold Thursday night, as thousands of people shout the words together, fists aloft – if they mean something, surely it is now.
Another target of Gittins’ was ‘Reckless’, from 2011’s ‘Sinners Never Sleep’. Perfectly placed, smack-bang in the middle of a well-paced set, it is an explosive highlight. As one of the bounciest YMAS tracks, it gains a potency in the live setting that further delights the crowd when Franceschi slots in lines from The Killers’ ‘When You Were Young’.
Although ‘Night People’ has met with largely positive critical and commercial success, its predecessor ‘Cavalier Youth’ remains the only album by the group to reach number 1. Perhaps tellingly, its singles ‘Fresh Start Fever’ and ‘Lived A Lie’ remain considerably more lively and memorable than the newest songs.
‘Take On The World’ and ‘Give’ lean towards semi-balladry that seems to give weight to the Guardian comparisons with Coldplay, and there is a sense that YMAS should stick to what they do best. As if to confirm, the fizzing, angsty and feverish ‘Save It For The Bedroom’ remains riotous, and there are surely more than a few glassy eyes among the older punters as they recall their teenage noughties.
It is something of a tradition among singers to woo a Glasgow audience with the assurance of their superiority to the rest of the tour, but Hall 3 laps up Franceschi’s flattery. The frontman had earlier tweeted that the show had nearly been cancelled due to his voice being ‘gone’, but hoarseness is only noticeable when he speaks.
A sharp ‘Room To Breathe’ closes the night – Franceschi remains note-perfect. One wonders if the Twitter drama was all part of the show.
Regardless, Franceschi seems justified in his more recent Twitter venting. The Guardian dismissed You Me At Six as “definitively empty and devoid of significance”, but how can a band – a guitar band at that – be without significance if they are touring the country’s biggest arenas in 2017?
Since when was originality a requirement of a rock band? When was the last time originality was actually seen in rock? This was a rock show, and a slick one, from a band that have never stopped progressing. Who’s to say they’ll stop now?
Maybe next time, they’ll be playing Hall 4.