It’s been almost a year to the day since the very first time I saw Years & Years live. I just happened to see that they were supporting Clean Bandit at the O2 in Bristol and booked a ticket. I have been lucky enough to see them four times since then, but seeing them back in the same venue a year later was probably one of my favourites. They’ve come a long way since last October, and they were brilliant then so that’s saying something.
With fans queuing from 9am, the venue filled faster than I could keep up with, but I was lucky to be right on the barrier, almost exactly where I stood a year ago. Opening the show was one of my favourite new artists, Oscar Key Sung. With just a tiny keyboard, one sound deck, his laptop and a microphone, the bass-heavy, soulful performance he put on was nothing short of gorgeous. I am a fool for Oscar’s breathy vocals, and he looked irresistibly cool dressed in black from head-to-toe and pulling his best dance moves. I really urge you to listen to this guy, he’s a very exciting new producer and his solo performance was enchanting.
Next came Las Vegas’ super sassy Shamir. His music is a bizarre mix of pop, techno, and jazz; it’s almost difficult to decide if you like it or not. His stage persona came off almost bored - a dangerously unlikeable characteristic. However, I think by the end of his energetic, if a little strange, performance, I was won over. His drummer was great too, which got everyone moving their feet.
Now, if you’ve never seen Years & Years live, I feel truly sorry for you. Every time I see them, they just seem to get better. I would describe singer Olly Alexander as the embodiment of a star. It’s impossible to take your eyes off him, which is just as well because other members, Mikey on bass and Emre on synths, don’t perform as such. However, I am always struck by how easy they make it look, when in fact they’re the ones creating the incredible synth-pop/R&B melodies that Olly, and everybody else, is dancing to. Their usual set starts with the moody, unconventional Foundation and blends seamlessly into the infectious beat of Take Shelter. This time the transition was even more atmospheric, giving the light techs a chance to have fun with their amazing set. They have reproduced their album artwork into a huge structure at the back of the stage that lights up with pulsating patterns and colours - it makes for amazing photography.
Years & Years electrified the O2 with chart toppers Desire, King and Shine, as well as others from their debut album Communion. Highlights for me included when Olly took to his keyboard for the beautiful Eyes Shut; the ultra-pop-y Ties; and when they replaced their usual Blu Cantrell cover with Britney’s Toxic - yes, Britney.
For the duration of the set Olly seemed to be enjoying himself even more than usual and experimenting with his vocals; it is only with special performers like Olly that this energy is reciprocated by the audience. There are so many fans who are inspired by Olly’s acceptance of himself as a member of the LGBTQ community within music, and their show’s provide a sanctuary for anyone seeking the same level of acceptance.
This gig was, as always, a spectacle. I would go again tonight if I could.
Photos by Agnes Emeney.
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