Years & Years at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, 5 November 2015
At 8:15pm, an electro pop five-piece take the stage. The venue fills with sunset-coloured strobe lights – synths hiss and guitars blare as the singer grabs the mic and hops around, sporting an oversized sleeveless shirt and Alexander Wang-esque workout chic outfit. Have Years & Years started early?
No, this is actually support act NIMMO who are bizarrely similar to the main attraction in both aesthetic and sound, a decision which seems at the face of it counter-intuitive. Having a support act so stylistically similar brings with it two risks – either that a.) the support act will dilute the main set (aside – NIMMO’s latest single is called, as it turns out, Dilute This) or b.) the similarities will invite listeners to draw comparisons between the main act and the support, which generally never bodes well for the latter. Nevertheless, NIMMO are warmly received by the crowd – they’re lively and energetic, despite occasions in which in instrumentation risks drowning out the vocals entirely.
Years & Years kick off with Foundation which slickly segues into Take Shelter, and it is at this point that lead singer Olly Alexander’s stage presence really shines through. He dances while he sings, arms locking and popping and knees braced. His hips gyrate with playful, serpentine grace as he leaps between elevated platforms, always with a near bashful simper.
He announces to the crowd that it’s his tour manager’s – Ash’s – birthday, Ash who has recently had a baby. “He’s like our father” Alexander explains, leading the crowd in a round of “Happy Birthday Ash!” Alexander frequently takes breaks from the set list to engage with his environment – he jumps down from the stage to hug some fans over the barrier and pose for a quick selfie, only for the security men to appear puzzled when posed with the challenge of returning the singer to his original place. He gathers fan art and posters and gleefully thanks people “They made really nice signs!” One girl waves a sign emblazoned with “Olly, can I have a dance?” and Olly obliges, instructing security to bring her round to the stage on which he grabs her hand and twirls her around, she almost on the edge of collapse with disbelief. Towards the end of the set, he does a whip around introducing his fellow band mates, finishing with giving the guy on synths a happy squeeze before launching into Real. There’s a definite earnestness to Alexander’s playful antics; he absorbs all the attention and love he receives with the awe and wonder of a child in Harrod’s. “Ireland is amazing!” he gushes.
Set list wise, Years & Years sticks primarily to the latest album, playing King (of course), Shine, Desire, Eyes Shut and Worship among others. The most exciting addition has to be without a doubt a cover of Britney Spears’s Toxic, a marriage of artists which really shouldn’t succeed and yet does beautifully. Away from the studio where things can be nipped, cut and polished, Alexander’s voice lacks the same ethereal gloss it has on his tracks. At times – such as while performing Without – Alexander even throws in some additional vocal rolls and embellishments, unnecessary accessories which don’t help, and if anything hinder, the voice quality.
Yet the crowd are insatiable – young fans are nearly splitting themselves in two trying to reach out to him, wriggling to get even a centimeter closer. As the set comes to a finish, Alexander gathers up some more fan made posters and then swathes himself in an Irish flag with “Years & Years” scribbled on it in glitter before waving to the crowd while lavender lights cross over his cheeks and he jogs into the wings.