The lights were dimmed and three men walked dutifully on to the stage. For a minute, I thought Years & Years was a moniker for a solo artist, as it wasn’t until the frontman, Olly Alexander stepped out that the room erupted into all pitch of screams. Observing the crazy crowd and all the girls waving about their hands, declaring their love for Olly, I quietly congratulated myself for escaping the death trap of the pit and opting for the balcony.
Without acknowledging the audience, off they dove into the first track, the 80s synth pop single ‘Take Shelter’. ‘We’ve never had our own tour before, this is our first ever headline.’ Says Olly after the cheer for the first song died down. Despite the note of vulnerability, it is no surprising that Olly seems completely at ease with the screeching fans given his fair share in acting (Skins, the Riot Club, and God Help the Girl). As for the other three members, Emre Turkmen, Mikey Goldsworthy, and their touring drummer, well they all looked pretty grateful that Olly’s soaking up all the limelight.
Having released only a handful of singles, their setlist was well thought out, alternating between one hit single then a couple of new tracks to keep the audience engaging. As much as I hate to emphasise on just one member of a band who clearly share equal effort in their work, the recurring (and rather tedious) lyrical theme of unrequited love and the all-around synth-y dance-inducing sounds don’t really add any novelty to the music department. It really is Olly’s distinctive voice and the ability to channel the emotions through the highs and lows of the house-y production of ‘Desire’ and the repetitive chanting of ‘Real’s ‘love I won’t let you go’ that marks Years & Years out from the sea of generic synth pop market. It is when he sat down with just keyboard and let his voice shine, all woozy and sombre, in slower tracks like ‘Eye Shut’ and ‘Memo’ that I am reminded of what all the fuss is really about with Years & Years.
For such a freshly recognised band to already have such strong and growing fan base, it is truly impressive. Whichever track, even the B-sides, that was already released is a guaranteed singalong from the crowd. “You, I remember you. You’ve been to all the shows. Tell us what the next song is.”, says the frontman as he reached out for the hand of one of the girls at the front, giving her a full-blown cardiac arrest. Without waiting for the screams to calm down, Years & Years ended the night with a bang of the new single ‘King’, which already had the crowd dancing and singing along word for word even though it wasn’t even released at the time of the gig.
Although the charm of the band’s frontman has really given Years & Years a head start, the top chart singles, winner of BBC Sound of 2015, and the BRITs Critics’ Choice award nomination all prove that it is their club-friendly mastery of sounds and Olly’s soul-soaked falsetto, that will determine their longevity in the business. The debut album is due sometime in June and until then, Years & Years still have a lot to make up for all the hype and expectations heaped upon them.
By Jaisai Wongpichet