REVIEW: Years and Years – Mandela Hall, Belfast
2015 has been massive for Years and Years to say the least. Awarded BBC’s Sound of 2015 and topping the UK album charts with their album “Communion”, their single “King” and not to mention “Shine” reaching no. 2, their rise to fame through the duration of the year has felt meteoric. Rapidly selling out the modest venue of the Mandela Hall, Years and Years feel absolutely destined for larger venues. A somewhat smug feeling pervades the evening that those in attendance at the gig will be able to say in a few years from now that they were around for the band’s modest beginnings.
The support band for the evening were London based Nimmo. Launching the night off in a suitably electro fashion, Nimmo is certainly an act that can adequately warm the audience up for Years and Years through the similarity of their electro infused sounds. Fronted by Sarah Nimmo and Reva Gauntlet, Nimmo sound somewhat like The xx meets Disclosure. Their combined vocals, reminiscent of La Roux and Janele Monaé respectively, compliment one another especially on their song “Dilute This.” Overall their set delivered an eclectic mix of electronic, synth sound combined keyboard that lends a layer of variation and brings to mind the piano infused string of hits Jess Glynne has belted out.
Years and Years were welcomed to the stage by the eagerest of screams from their audience. Getting their set off without delay front man Olly Alexander proceeds to bust some questionable dance moves that continue almost relentlessly throughout their set. Energetic and with impressive vocals right from the onset it’s established very early that Years and Years sound pretty impeccable live.
When “Desire” has the audience singing along almost instantaneously, Olly Alexander looks blown away by the enthusiasm of the audience. Indeed, right the way through Years and Years set, Alexander seems, through laughter and looks of disbelief, not quite able to grasp the position he is in and the ability he has to very easily get a crowd clapping and singing along to something he and his bandmates created. It’s quite heartening to see this throughout the gig as the band clearly are still not attuned to the extent of their fame or at least still delighted by it.
The following song “Worship” further demonstrates the devotion of their fanbase as Alexander is at times inaudible under hundreds of audience member’s voices singing along word for word. “So Belfast is pretty good then?” Alexander says laughing filling the silence only to have the audience screaming once again.
As the band work through their synth infused, electropop set list with the audience in rhapsody, Years and Years skill at creating outstanding pop music really stands out. Alexis Petridis wrote that “Communion” “feels weirdly like a kind of omnipresent, nondescript background noise, the music you always seem to be listening to without actively choosing to – while queuing in shops, or waiting in cafes” The exact opposite however feels at work in the duration of the evening as Years and Years demonstrate the irresistibly catchy nature of their music.
Yet soft, piano charged song “Eyes Shut” suggests a whole other layer to the band’s sound that moves beyond mere electropop. Exploring a sound that is more comparable to the likes of Sam Smith, “Eyes Shut” is emotionally charged yet manages to retain that quality beckoning you to sing along. It is a particular highlight of the show as it showcases that Years and Years have deceived us into thinking they are simply an electro pop band when there is much more at work in their sound.
Their cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” however quickly brings the focus back to electropop. It’s one of those fun, unlikely covers that actually adapts really well to Alexander’s Sam Smith-esque vocals and the signature, synth infused Years and Years sound that has become so well known.
Closing the evening with an encore consisting of – of course – their chart topping hit “King” it undeniably ends the evening on a high note. Unlike many pop bands and artists today, Years and Years flaunt how skilled as musicians they actually are. Alexander’s vocals are immaculate right the way through their show and there’s no nasty surprises in not matching the sound of the album. It seems like a pretty safe bet that next time Years and Years are in Belfast they’ll be playing a larger venue but for now they seem to be enjoying the onset of their fame.