Screen Review: SIX60 – Till The Lights Go Out

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SIX60: Till The Lights Go Out
Directed by Julia Parnell

Review by Kate Taylor. Premiere photography by Chris Morgan.

Some experiences you know as you’re having them, that they are indeed, something very special. That’s the best way to describe being an attendee at The Civic for the Auckland Premiere of SIX60: Till the Lights Go Out. Every little aspect of the evening felt special. The swell of the excited audience arriving, knowing that SIX60 would arrive soon also and that they might catch a little glimpse of red-carpet glamour as the boys pulled up. The house was humming with energy for sure and when the little theatre bell and announcement to “Please take our seats” came on, it levelled up.

This premiere felt so important, in so many ways. It was an absolute pleasure to see Till the Lights Go Out Director and Notable Pictures Company Director, Julia Parnell gift her film to us and to share in her moment of celebration seeing it play to a packed and enthusiastic audience at this majestic venue. Following this glorious moment, SIX60 were welcomed to the stage to rapturous applause, looking incredible in their unified, velvety fashion for the night. The audience was in awe as Matiu led the boys and the Kapa Haka group assembled in support behind them, in a performance of Kia Mau Ki Tō Ūkaipō / Don’t Forget Your Roots, which was spine-tinglingly good under the stars of The Civic’s night sky. The scene was set for the big moment, the roll of the production stings and opening credits which started to show onscreen to the sounds of a roaring Western Springs crowd.

SIX60:Till the Lights Go Out is a heartfelt and measured piece of NZ music history on film. So much more than a band biopic, or a documentary, or a music film. It’s a hybrid of all these things much like SIX60 themselves, it’s sort of undefinable but comes from a lot of heart, the effort to attain perfection and big, big goals. Following the boys doggedly from their beginnings at 660 Castle street through to their 50,000-person strong audience at Western Springs, the only New Zealand band to achieve this feat; right up until all new footage and interviews recorded specifically for this documentary. Don’t be mistaken for thinking this is a 90min backslapping, glow up session. Far from it. SIX60 and Julia Parnell have an intrepid spirit in this film, they’re not afraid to look the tough stuff in the eye and bare it all for the screen. It’s motivational, it’s uplifting, it’s confronting and ultimately important to see men, New Zealand men, speak about their fears, their goals, their concerns and how they view themselves. Edging it further than this, it’s important to see Māori men sharing these things on screen; giving the opportunity for stereotypes to be exploded and for others to see themselves represented onscreen too. Meeting these men and what they’ve each put on the line to create THE modern band of our nation.

For context we’re given opinions and insights from collaborators and admirers such as Tiki Taane, Kanoa Lloyd, Stan Walker and Josh Kronfeld; who help to fill in the gaps around the roots that have been created as these tall poppies grew into their craft, their music and their selves. Of course, you know in New Zealand, we love to cut people’s heads off. We’re renown for it. So, it’s with real squirmy courage that there’s a confronting portion where Ji reads aloud an early review for SIX60’s sound…and it is awful, a horrible dragging for a bunch of beloved balladeers who are just doing their thing. It’s a crushingly real and cleverly used juxtaposition for the more recently remembered accolades, awards, and notoriety they we’re used to being associated with this band. The boys have been hated more than they’ve been loved in a lot of areas and we get to learn more about that in this film.

We see their creative process stripped bare, their dealing with difficulty in their interpersonal band relationships; and coming to terms with their art effecting the lives of others in negative and positive ways. We learn about the “I against I” battle for each member to separate themselves from the version of New Zealand that they’ve come from to build this legacy; and the crushing pressure they put on their selves to keep striving for greatness. The will to win, which was initially forged in their time spent on the Rugby field and morphed into what we see now. The ever-present question of Till the Lights Go Out however is: “How far can SIX60 actually go?” Keep watching, we’re about to find out.

Note: [AD] SIX60 / 818 provided passes to Ambient Light to review this movie. As always, this has not influenced the review in any way and the opinions expressed are those of Ambient Light’s only. This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase a product using an affiliate link, Ambient Light will automatically receive a small commission.

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