Six by Seven @ ULU, London (29th October 1999)

To show what they can do, Six by Seven start off with the slow-burning crashing beauty of their latest single "10 Places to Die." They get our attention straight away, partly because we're drawn into the obsessively morbid hobby of list-making and partly because of the way they work together. There's undoubtedly some sort of chemistry between them although they hardly look at each other onstage. They just look intense. Even the more light-hearted moments, like when Chris Olley's Rickenbacker dies on him and he jokes about throwing it in the audience and calls its replacement his "AC/DC" guitar, are not your usual banter somehow.

The set was interspersed with some new songs which sat a little uncomfortably next to the material from "The Things We Make". They were faster, punkier and apparently simpler, Chris Olley barking at the microphone and all hands united in frantic strumming. There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with this but it was strange for a band capable (as they show some 15 minutes later) of producing such shimmering, ear-splitting noise as "88-92-96." Their mastery of the craft becomes blindingly obvious on songs like "European Me"---the drawn-out, high-pitched "It's good to be someone..." coming over like a lesson in ontology you never wanted to hear, a guitar played with a piece of wood and just overwhelming, reverberating sadness. Exactly the same thing on "Oh! Dear"---a cluster of notes repeated hypnotically and then overlaid by some delicate guitar, until it rises to that beautiful, shimmering, tremolo-like sound that almost hurts, but should never end, and the strange sight of Chris Olley singing "I could dance you to death on a Friday night" yet looking for all the world like he wouldn't dance if you put a shotgun to his head. Mind you, when they return to their older stuff 6x7 create a sound that pins you to the floor every time a song finally comes together. Which is probably why noone really dances at their gigs.

They finish off their only encore with "Spy Song" which starts off as the soundtrack for an agitated ambulance ride with some of the most tender and incomprehensibly sexy lyrics ever ( fun drinkless, drugless happy emptiness...) and finally dissolves into a question which so painfully lacks the right intonation---maybe I love you....? I dare say we do. It is probably not enough to say that this is a better gig than most bands can hope to play in their life. In fact, their song-building process reminds me of a more grown-up and less drugged-up Spaceman 3. I was too young to ever see them live and I imagine this is the closest I'll get. Awesome. (Radiant Kovacs)

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