Less than a year ago they were just one of a slew of unknown bands on The Great Escape’s bill. The harsh truth is few who play the UK’s premier new music showcase ever ‘make it’, with most destined to be forever might-have-beens. But there are always exceptions and as their return to Brighton took the form of a sold-out headline show at Concorde 2, Years & Years are one of them. Of course having just been named Sound of 2015 by the BBC and playing live at the Brits Awards event had raised their profile even beyond that of a band who were already on the lips of many a tastemaker.
If that wasn’t enough, the last night of their first ever headline tour found them about to have a Number One single with ‘King’ going straight to the top of the charts the next day. No pressure then on the London-based trio as a packed-to-the-gunnels C2 waited for their arrival.
The gig had been upgraded from The Haunt and the predominantly female audience were certainly up for a good time even giving support act Sam Sure the warmest of welcomes. But it was Years & Years who they’d come to see, or rather lead singer Olly Alexander.
Usually a trio, but supplemented by a drummer for live gigs, the band took the stage without their frontman who made his entrance moments later. From the off it was clear it was all about Olly. The 25-year-old was not just the main man, but he was the only one everyone’s eyes were on. And for good reason, he’s the one with the star quality and he’s the one with the intoxicating voice.
With a predominance of synths and even the presence of an iPad, Years & Years are the epitome of a modern band. Slinkily infectious is one way to describe their music, although to my ears at least there’s a touch of the Kajagoogoo’s about it. And just like Limahl did all those years ago, Olly has the girls screaming throughout. Indeed, you had to pinch yourself to remember this was almost certainly the first time most in the audience had ever seen them live, that they don’t yet have an album out or that they’re still rookies when it comes to performing headline shows.
That said, with his parallel thespian career, Olly has a stage presence that would be the envy of many a seasoned frontman. He also has a wonderfully soulful voice that most would covet. Distinctive and with a wide range, at times he even manages to sound like he’s also singing his own backing vocals.
He was the first to admit that this tour is all about trying out their forthcoming album, but whilst the lack of material meant they were only onstage for an hour, the audience seemed to know each of the dozen songs they played, lustily singing along word for word. That’s the power of the internet, that a band’s music can be so well known way before it’s even been released. But with floor-fillers like ‘Desire’ ‘Take Shelter’ plus the stunning angst-ridden ballad ‘Memo’ they’ve already recorded some future classics. Vocally some of them also share a similarity with Bastille, which judging by that band’s international success, can be no bad thing.
Of course, they saved the best to last, returning for a celebratory rendition of ‘King’ which had everyone bouncing along. On a triumphant night, Olly’s parting words were “Thanks for being so nice to us”. It won’t be long before they’re back, June sees them on the mainstage at Wild Life and, who knows, the next time they’re in town they could well be headlining Brighton Centre. Yes, they really were that good. Years & Years play Wild Life at Brighton City Airport on Sun 7 June, 2015. Their debut album, Communion, is released on Mon 22 June.