LIVE: You Me At Six @ Keele SU

By Yasmin Brown

It may have been their first live show since November last year, but for the duration of the 90-minute pre-Download Festival set, You Me At Six were anything but rusty.

Supported by Bath-based band Decade, the room was thick with moisture long before YMAS took to the stage, a great indication of what we were in for over the next couple of hours.

Masters of performance, You Me At Six built up the anticipation as one by one they took to the stage, playing an extended intro of their 2014 ‘Cavalier Youth’ hit, ‘Room to Breathe’. The audience was already mesmerised as Matt, Max, Chris and Dan kicked off the night with the instrumental, but the screams that ensued once front man Josh Franceschi stepped onto stage conveyed a whole new level of excitement. At this moment, with sweat already coating our skin, it became clear that everyone in the room was determined to make this a night to remember.

They called it a ‘warm up show’, but these five Surrey men appear to have reached a point in their 13 year career where their relationship as both friends and musicians runs so deep that performing together comes entirely naturally. As Matt, Max and Josh jumped around the stage, they narrowly avoided collision on more than one occasion, completely intuitive to each others’ movements, working together animatedly to put on the tightest and most entertaining show of their careers so far.

They followed ‘Room to Breathe’ with what is arguably the most popular track on ‘Cavalier Youth’, ‘Fresh Start Fever’, and it took no time at all for the thin sheen of sweat to turn into that ‘just showered’ look as bodies desperately pushed towards the stage, leaving no room for air. You Me At Six are a band that command loyalty, something that was evident by the sheer determination with which the crowd screamed back the lyrics; arms raised, feet off the floor. This kind of adoration has never gone unnoticed by the band, and with the announcement of their sixth studio album ‘VI’ (to be released under their own record label, Underdog Records), the band declared that this album is for us. With that in mind, we were treated to the live debut of their new track, ‘Fast Forward’, and while the lyrics were not yet etched into our souls as with their other tracks, the energy didn’t waver for a second as fans embraced this newly developed sound that will lead us into the new album cycle.

The following performance of the upbeat ‘Swear’ ended abruptly as Josh checked on an audience member to ensure they’d retrieved their lost glasses. Once confirmed, the first on-stage banter of the night ensued, as Josh noted with relief, “Now you can finally see!” only to have Matt retort with, “you can see that jacket a mile away”, referring to Josh’s flamboyant floral jacket that he had stubbornly yet to remove, despite the uncomfortable heat.

While it wasn’t enough time for us to come even close to cooling off, the band’s performance of ‘Give’ allowed for a reprieve from the hectic dancing and colliding bodies before they immediately launched into ‘Stay With Me’. This was the perfect opportunity for a fan singalong and one that saw hands reach into the air as high as they could go, in what can only be described as being akin to some kind of spiritual praising of a higher power – appropriate considering earlier in the night we had been desperately chanting “we are believers” during ‘Lived a Lie’, signifying both our dedication to the band and to living an authentic life.

Prefaced with a disclaimer that they’re not the people they used to be, the band took us back to 2008 with ‘Save It For the Bedroom’, the fourth single off their first album ‘Take Off Your Colours’. The pre-performance speech shows how You Me At Six have grown as people, and partially explains how they have maintained such a strong fanbase – with those who have been around since the start having grown with them, and newer fans relating to the more mature material and mindset of more recent years. The energy built up during this throwback was maintained during 2011’s ‘Reckless’, as fans needed no prompting to remove their shirts and swing them above their heads, as has been tradition since the band first started performing the song.

‘Spell It Out’ has become one of YMAS’ most iconic performances, with the crowd anticipation building slowly with the music – an otherworldly experience that reaches a climax which acts as cathartic release for everyone in the room, helping us leave behind anything that may have been weighing on our minds along with the remnants of sweat and beer. 

The band left the stage, and rather than the desperate calls to bring the band back that you might expect, the crowd waited expectantly and with entitlement for You Me At Six to return. Disappointed, Josh returned alone to ask, “Do you want more music? Cause you didn’t ask for it!” Finally, he was met with yells of, “One more song!”, happily feeding his ego and encouraging the rest of the band to join him on stage for the final three songs.

‘No One Does It Better’ was introduced with a speech that touched on the loss of Josh’s grandmother and how this loss led to a particularly dark time for him wherein even getting out of bed was impossible. It was memories of nights like this one, however, that kept him going and as such, this performance was for us. Aptly, this emotional four minutes was followed by ‘Underdog’, another track that resonates with most YMAS fans – even after eight years – and in that moment came the realisation that not only does the band help us through our toughest times, but we can help them, too. ‘Underdog’ caused the mood to flip instantly, as the crowd started to jump up and down in unison, screaming lines that have become iconic within the fandom.

If this set proved anything, it’s that You Me At Six have longevity. Their music remains relatable, despite how much time has passed since its release, and no other track highlights this better than ‘Bite My Tongue’. Despite a departure from their heavier days, ‘Bite My Tongue’ never fails to incite the craziest of dancing, and the most heartfelt sing (or scream) alongs. YMAS know how to curate a setlist, and they unquestionably left everyone wanting more – a perfect way to end a set knowing that a UK tour is to be officially announced the next morning.

Each song was met with as much enthusiasm from the crowd as the last, and it became highly apparent that it’s pretty damn difficult to be just a casual fan of You Me At Six. They encourage devotion – a devotion that is reciprocated by the band – and every moment of the 16 song setlist was lapped up and met with total appreciation.