Live Review: Six By Seven at The Garage, Highbury

Six by Seven are one of those bands so inextricably linked to a period of my life that it’s hard to listen to either of their first two albums, 1998’s beautifully sparse The Things We Make and 2000’s expansive, buzzing opus The Closer You Get, without being flooded with memories – ‘Oh! Dear’ was on the first mix tape I made for a girl I liked at school, one of the first songs I ever wrote was a poorly disguised rip-off of ‘Eat Junk, Become Junk’ titled ‘You Are What You Eat’, and when I made my first website back in the early days of the new millennium, the Nottingham quintet were amongst the bands to feature.

So it was with a mix of excitement and trepidation that I made my way to The Garage for a reunion show to celebrate the double LP re-release of The Closer You Get, augmented in this Beggar’s Arkive edition by a collection of their John Peel sessions, with a Greatest Hits CD also being released.  I’m generally skeptical about nostalgia-fuelled reunions, and with this being only the second time in more than 15 years that the original line-up had played together (the other being a home-town show the week before) the questions that raced through my mind were a) Can they possibly live up to the memories of their original run? and b) Even if they can, are there enough people out there who still care?

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The second of these concerns is dealt with well before the band make their way onstage.  The venue is packed.  Primarily, it must be said, with people very much like me – blokes in their mid thirties in well-worn band t-shirts and battered jeans here to time travel back to their youth – but there are also a surprising number of people here who appear far too young to have caught them the first time around.

The first is dealt with the moment that Sam Hempton first jabs a drumstick into the strings of his guitar to drag a sci-fi wail from his instrument that resonates throughout opener ‘A Beautiful Shape’, a track that builds from a subtle, delicate strum to an all-out sensory assault, and sets the tone for more than an hour of thrillingly dynamic, emotionally intense post-rock.  We get further cuts from The Things We Make, with the air raid siren guitars of ‘European Me’ eliciting a particularly warm response.

Even frontman Chris Olley, renowned for his curmudgeonly persona, has a massive smile on his face as he banters with the crowd and hauls his giant frame into the air to crash a climactic chord from his guitar.  The band seem genuinely surprised at the passion still felt for these songs more than a decade on, and it drives them ever further into the building groves and walls of feedback that fuel the likes of ‘So Close’ and ‘My Life Is an Accident’.

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The bulk of tonight’s set is drawn from the newly reissued The Closer You Get, with every track sounding just as fresh and impassioned as it did at the turn of the century.  ‘England and a Broken Radio’ still flickers with understated beauty, ‘Ten Places To Die’s affecting vocal still rides its wave of undulating bass and ‘Eat Junk Become Junk’ rocks the fuck out with its chainsaw guitars and snaking electronic squelches.

We’re treated to not one but two encores, the second of which, a solo acoustic rendering of ‘100 & Something Foxhall Road’ and it’s line “Something tells me it’s ok to feel this way again,” captures the mood perfectly.

Review and photography by Paul Maps
facebook.com/sixbyseven

The Closer You Get and Six By Seven: Greatest Hits are available now via Beggars Arkive

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