British electronica/synth pop act Years and Years are doing VERY well, they hit the top of the UK singles chart in 2015 with their single 'King', they saw similar success with their later release 'Shine' slotting in nicely at the #2 slot. After just one studio album (Communion), four EP's and nine singles to date they have amassed a huge following, aided no doubt by the high number of nominations that they have already received from popular music awards outfits such as The Brits, MTV & Q Magazine amongst others.
Formed back in 2010 and originally a five piece, they soon released their debut single 'I Wish I Knew', they soon signed to a French label in 2013 as the current 3 piece lineup made up of Olly Alexander (Vocals/Keyboards), Mikey Goldsworthy (Keyboards/Bass/Acoustic Guitar) & Emre Türkmen (Keyboards/Beats/Samples). In 2014, they made the shift to Polydor and released their EP 'Take Shelter' which reached #1 on the iTunes UK Singles Electronic Chart. 2015 was their breakthrough year, their single 'King' was previewed on Radio 1 and was also selected as Zane Lowe's 'Hottest Record of the Day' which did a great job of catapulting the trio into the limelight and gaining them the attention that they thoroughly deserved, resulting in them winning the coveted BBC Sound of 2015 award.
Following this, they hit the festival scene hard, appearing at many major events throughout the UK including Reading and Leeds and a slot on the John Peel stage at Glastonbury.
2016 is already looking to be a momentous year for the trio with a number of festival appearances already confirmed including Sundown, Latitude, V Festival, Parklife, Bestival and Glastonbury as well as a slew of major European events such as Pink Pop (Netherlands), Lollapalooza (Germany), Rock Werchter (Belgium) and Coachella (USA).
We were invited along to their show in Plymouth to catch their set and see just what it is that makes them such an enticing live act....
We learned that there was a large queue outside of the venue from mid afternoon onwards, this is the first time I have ever heard this, going to show the effect that the band have on their dedicated followers who were willing to spend an entire afternoon, sitting patiently for the doors to open, only to stand for another 3 hours, hugging the barrier waiting for their beloved starts to appear! We on the other hand sauntered in at 7pm, obtained the necessary wristbands and took our place in the press pit, waiting for the action to unfold.
Opening the proceedings was London based female singer songwriter Mabel, her soulful vocals and light electronic backing reminded me of a more upbeat London Grammar. She gelled well with her band and backing singer, knocking out some heavenly vocal harmonies throughout her performance.
Highlights of her set for me included her latest single 'My Boy My Town' with its cool, laid back beats and smooth bass and her fabulous take on Destony's Child's 'Say My Name'. It would have been nice to see her moving about a little more but given the area that she was contained to, it would have been quite tricky, definitely an act to watch out for in the future.
After a brief break and some equipment movement, we were treated to the second act, hailing from Copenhagen, MØ took to the stage strutting like a prowling panther seeking her prey, she looked cool and confident in her cream coloured jacket, stripping off a couple of tracks in to reveal a black bra top with fold lettering, reminding me of Madonna in her heyday. She and her band performed a blend of electronica, soul and disco as the audience got more involved with her music. She bumped and ground her body into the stage, she leapt into the press pit to get up close and personal with the front few rows and generally looked like she was having a great time on stage....her stage.
Her performance was as much about the visuals as it was the music, I was getting worn out just watching her cavorting across the stage, weaving and dipping as the band pumped out stabbing samples and rhythmic beats which mesmerised all. The highlight of her performance had to be 'Lean On', a track by Major Lazer & DJ Snake which she provided guest vocals on, this literally brought down the house.
So, onto the main event, the auditorium was now bursting at the seams and the atmosphere was electrifying, the lights dropped, up went a mighty roar and out walked Mikey Goldsworthy & Emre Türkmen, flanked by a drummer and 2 backing singers but no sign of Olly yet. The stage was awash with red lighting, from my vantage point on the balcony, it was as if someone had drawn a red digital curtain across the stage, very effective indeed. After a couple of minutes of the music building, Olly Alexander took to the stage and the place erupted!
For the next 90 minutes, they dazzled the audience with tracks from their debut album 'Communion' and a light show that rivalled anything I have ever seen before. Olly snaked from one side of the stage to the other, his lean, lithe body cavorting into all sorts of contorted shapes, like he had been put under a spell by Mikey and Emre with their magical synths.
Olly jumped into the press pit during 'Shine' and proceeded to walk the length of it, at one point he was handed a bra and stood holding it aloft prior to putting it on and danced about the stage with his new found chest supports firmly in place!
As well as the established tracks from their debut album, they treated us to a new song called 'See Me Now' which saw Mikey and Emre playing bass and electric guitar, this was very well received amongst their army of die hard fans. I would also like to say that the slower tracks with Olly at the keyboard also had a profound effect on the room, his vocal range is immense and seeing him seated, his voice full of emotion and passion was literally something else.
After their terrific performance of 'Desire', Olly left the stage, followed soon after by the remaining band members, leaving the 4000+ fans screaming, shouting and stamping their feet until they re-appeared on stage to complete their set. Joining Olly on stage for a cover of Brandy & Monica's 'The Boy is Mine' was MØ who did a sterling job of playing the part, almost acting out the song. They kicked into their biggest track to date, the one that took them to the very top of the charts, 'King' which was received with a massive cheer, the whole room was soon up and dancing, I thought for a moment that the balcony was going to collapse under the sheer weight of people jumping around!
The show was a massive success, I have to say now that the overall production of it was on a scale larger than anything I have seen before on an arena tour, the lighting, sound and general effects were mind blowing and I will remember the performance for a long time to come, dare I say, for years & years!
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Sion Roe