Marble staircases, statues lining the walls looking down upon me and twinkling lights hanging from a midnight blue roof; this was my first time in the beautiful Forum Theatre and I was to spend it with one of the UK’s finest rock bands, You Me At Six. Yet first, there was a little pop-punk band all the way from Brisbane and a quintet of melodic hardcore superstars from Sydney that we had to spend some time with first.
Columbus (who I have a feeling have never stepped a single foot on actual Ohio grounds before) took to the stage and blasted through a lengthy opening set of catchy pop-punk bangers. These guys have been well and truly up and coming for some time now, gaining greater momentum with each release and tour they do and I don’t doubt that this will be any different as they’ll gain some eager new fans in attendance to google them when they get back home.
Now, when I saw these Queensland boys at Unify this January, I was surprised how well they carried their sound with just the three of them on stage. Yet it must have been the open air that day or my home speaker size ’cause tonight in this lovely theatre they were sadly paper thin. The choruses, although catchy and well put together, lacked any real sort of “oomph” or drive to them. This may to some sound like a nitpick or a personal taste issue, but you can tell from the way this band play that these choruses are meant to be big and packed full of punch. Yet with just one guitar, a drum kit and a bass and surprising lack of distinct vocal harmonies, Columbus struggled to hit the mark and really build the songs this night.
As a good friend and I agreed upon post set, they need to chuck another guitarist up there and get some vocal harmonies going to create the necessary larger sound. Though they are still a growing and still maturing band, so in years to come, I imagine they will work out all of these kinks and blossom their live sound further. And I am so very looking forward to seeing that happen!
Next up on this glorious stage was the almighty Hellions. Opening their set with the huge sounding ‘Thresher‘ and the banner for ‘Opera Oblivia‘ hanging monolithically behind them, they were instantly turning heads. The song was the perfect introduction for those who haven’t ever heard of Hellions, what with it being the perfect blend of the alternative rock and pop-punk from the other two bands on this bill with Hellions own melodic hardcore roots being present. Similarly, ‘25‘ was a perfect continuation on from this start, following in suit of ‘Thresher‘ with huge choruses and a beautifully melodic backdrop. With multiple harmonies and two guitarists, these guys certainly weren’t having any issues making the correct impact.
It was, however, ‘Nightliner Rhapsody‘ that got things properly moving after we were all prompted to start a circle pit. Though I’ve seen many a far better circle pits in my time, it was the catalyst to get some good old-fashioned push pits and all-around general movement going. So when ‘Lotus Eater‘ and my personal favourite trackm ‘Nottingham‘, popped up, we were all well and ready to get right into it.
Hellions sounded impeccably tight, drummer Anthony Caruso being an absolute legend behind the kit as he really brought to life songs, such as on ‘Lotus Eater‘ with his dynamic yet controlled and purposeful playing. Though I hate to bring it up at risk of sounding like I’m just having a dig at Columbus (even though I do quite enjoy their music), these fellow UNFD stars really did translate the grandeur of their sound from studio to stage beautifully so. There was an epicness to so many parts whether it was the almost-spooky chorus of ‘Lotus Eater‘, the bouncy intensity of the self-titled track ‘Hellions‘. We even got a cheeky guest spot from You Me At Six’s Josh Franceschi on ‘24‘ to much surprise and pleasure from the crowd. It was however in the closer of ‘Quality of Life‘ did we find the best sing-alongs, the best pits and the best energy. The song is not only ripe for swinging your arms and legs along to that infectious and tight groove but it’s also perfect to close your eyes nice and hard and scream out the chorus too as I saw many a people do whilst throwing their fist in the air. It was brilliant and beautiful and makes me only more excited to see what Hellions come out with next.
Okay, I’m gonna get my first and only grievance from You Me At Six’s set out of the way first and foremost, because it was the first and foremost thing that happened – opening up with ‘Spell It Out’.
Weak. As. All. Fuck.
That piece really should not have been the opening song straight up. It didn’t give the grand and luxurious, or even memorable opening that You Me At Six deserve in this headlining position. It’s climax and melting point after the far too slow burn of a crescendo doesn’t have much weight to it, either. And so with a huge white drape masking the band and turning them into meer silhouettes, the big reveal when it drops at that “climax” point just feels lacklustre more than anything else, sadly. But from there on out, it was all systems go and it was amazing set.
You Me At Six proved right here in Melbourne one thing: they are a motherfuckin’ rock band! It can be so easy after a casual listen to just assume that they are a manufactured stadium rock band soul bent on making antithetic chart toppers. But you’d be dead wrong in that thought.
The band moved brilliantly through a set of old-school hits and some sleek new bangers. Songs like ‘Bite My Tongue‘ and ‘Loverboy‘ got things rolling along awesomely yet it was ‘Fresh Start Fever‘ and ‘Lived A Lie‘ that really got us moving, screaming along and just going nuts for these five lads. It was so refreshing to go to a show where there was a consistent amount of physical movement from almost the whole floor for entire songs at a time; the kind of energy seems to be missing in most gigs these days. Or maybe I’m just not going to the right ones. Either way, I was having an absolute fucking blast.
Now I do owe singer Josh Franceschi an apology. I told him in an interview that I didn’t really like a lot of their newest record, ‘Night People‘. And that was true; I really did not. Yet my foot is proverbially in my mouth after this night as some of those new songs blew me away. I finally got it. It hit me like an epiphany as ‘Night People‘ the song roared its ferocious head with its Muse-like riffs and massive drums that were overbearing in the best way whilst ‘Swear‘ showed its true colours as one groovy fucking rock and roll track. These songs just make a lot more sense when you’ve got all the passion from the band and the energy from the crowd mixes together under one roof.
So yeah, sorry Josh. Hope we’re still cool, man!
It was during tracks like ‘Cold Night‘ and ‘Give‘ where we also found the melody and the beauty from this band. The latter is another song I dismissed from ‘Night People‘ yet here I was mesmerised as the song begun in a soft, intimate fashion only to build into a gorgeous fever pitch of a finale, one that leaves behind the on-record counterpart. The former is also one of my all-time favourite You Me At Six songs what with its incredible and infectious bridge and divine guitar melodies and tones. Yet this side of the band was at it’s finest with ‘Take On The World‘. As they killed the house lights and we lifted our phones high in the air to illuminate the venue, the band began their most beautiful song to date. We sang along, drowning out the vocals and the guitar almost entirely. With our lights shining strong and our voices ringing high, it was like singing hymns in the middle of the sun.
It was here that most of the band left the stage, leaving Franceschi and guitarist Max Helyer alone under the lights. The vocalist then turns to us and talks about how for this whole tour, before the next song he’s spoken about things that have pissed him off; namely a certain United States President. Yet tonight he wanted instead to talk about the positive things in life and focus on them, and sadly how they are now few and far between. However, the positive thing he wanted to discuss was in actuality, after a story that was a little bit upsetting and scary, depending on how much you love You Me At Six.
Five months ago, Franceschi was sitting in Heyler‘s studio and they were ready to call it in. To give up the ghost and put the band to rest. He talked about the frustration and the pain of being fucked around time and time again by managers, publicists, labels and the like and how it was starting to wear them down to the very bones of the band. Yet before agreeing to anything, they decided to tour our beautiful country one more time. Now, whether or not this next part they decided whilst down here or prior is up for debate and also how much of a romantic you want to be, but You Me At Six is now a solely independent band.
According to them, they are now a fully fledged solo band and they are also going to come down to Australia once a year! As crazy as that sounds, based on the reaction they’ve gotten over here, and Aussie fans clear love for the band, maybe that might just do the trick for the band’s spirits.
From that poignant moment, came an encore of four songs as the full band stepped back on stage, Franceschi even admitting that “encores are stupid” in the very process. They made sure to close the night’s proceedings off with a handful of the best crowd pleasers they could think of. ‘Stay With Me‘, ‘Reckless‘ and ‘Underdog‘ all went off like an explosion with the crowd singing every word as loud as possible, drowning out the vocals and almost half the other instruments by doing so. Of course, though, they saved ‘Room to Breathe‘ for last, eliciting somehow and even more ecstatic reaction. It was an incredible contrast to how the show opened: huge, vibrant, powerful and other such music journalism buzzwords. Though I would have loved to have seen ‘Heavy Soul‘ make an appearance, I was in no place to complain as I walked away with the sounds of one of Britain’s best exports still ringing in my ears.
So, whether or not Franceschi was being overly dramatic or not about his band’s independence and future plans, I’m going to hold him to his word and say: See you guys next year. We will all be eagerly waiting.
PC: Maddie Bell.