From mainstream recognition with ‘King’ in early 2015, to the present headline arena tour, Years & Years look like the runaway success of the past 12 months.
However, this is not a case of overnight fame, as unbeknownst to the masses the electro-pop trio have been climbing the musical ladder for the past five years. In fact frontman Olly Alexander originally trained to be an actor, appearing in the final series of Skins and the film The Riot Club.
After claiming the top spot of the BBC’s coveted ‘Sound of 2015’ list, Years & Years have gone from strength to strength. In a packed Bournemouth International Centre, the opening act was Mabel. As a relatively unknown artist, opening in such a large venue must have been no easy task. Joining the tour halfway through, the show was most likely the biggest crowd she has played in front of to date. After a few songs, she began to warm up and with increasing confidence reached the highlight of her set with newly penned ‘Sweetest Thing’. With a catchy chorus it is obvious to see why Mabel has followed in the headliners footsteps and is featured on the Sound of 2016 list.
Up next was MØ who swaggered onto the stage with unreserved levels of confidence. MØ admirably managed to keep this energy throughout her set despite several of the songs sounding the same. However, the Diplo-produced ‘Kamikaze’ did stand out due to the track’s Bollywood-esque hook. Closing with Major Lazer’s ‘Lean On’, the crowd started to develop an energy that rapidly accelerated over the remainder of the night.
As the warm up music faded out and the lighting dimmed, Years & Years entered; greeted by a deafening roar in the arena. Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Türkmen took their place behind an array of keyboards, synthesisers and guitars before the noise from the audience magnified when the silhouette of frontman Olly Alexander emerged onto centre stage.
Kicking off with opening album track ‘Foundation’, Alexander was contained in a cage of laser beams, whilst his soulful and almost eerie vocals echoed around the arena. As the slow track wound to an end, Alexander screamed “Bournemouth!”, before bouncing around the stage with unfathomable amounts of energy and into ‘Take Shelter’.
Alexander is an instantly likable character; there is something truly special about his performance. From his distinct soulful vocals to his boyish charm, he performs with honesty and is clearly emotional connected to the lyrics he has written. He bounces around the stage all night and as he interacts with his band members the trio are glowing. It is clear to see that they are not only having the time of their lives but are humbled by the support of the audience.
Mid-way through the set, Alexander introduced a new song in the form of ‘See Me Now’, which, with a memorable chorus and a catchy melody, has all the ingredients for a future hit. Of course, lead singles ‘Shine’, ‘Desire’ and number one single ‘King’ were highlights, but the band threw a few surprise covers into the mix as well. Alexander made Drakes ‘Hotline Bling’ his own and got the audience singing along to the 90’s classic ‘The Boy Is Mine’, in collaboration with MØ.
Music aside, Years & Years’ set was a visual spectacle. Whilst nothing could distract from the musical effort, the back drop of moving visuals, lights and laser beams magnified the experience. After an unstoppable year, where do they go next? After some well needed rest, this immensely popular band faces one of the biggest challenges in music – the difficult second album.