When you go to a Years & Years gig, you get a SHOW. That’s top of the list of things I’ve learnt this week, fresh from attending the opening night of Olly Alexander’s (aka solo pop project Years & Years) current tour at The Brighton Centre.
As Years & Years, Olly’s been around now for, well… years and years. But it’s the first time I’ve been lucky enough to get the full live experience. His sparkly, colourful dance electropop has been a constant feature in the charts since Years & Years’ debut album Communion dropped in 2015, and Olly’s starring role in Russell T Davies much-loved 2021 series It’s a Sin cemented his status as a triple threat megastar.
We arrived in time to get hyped by the support acts, singer songwriter L Devine and DJ collective Queer House Party, who formed in lockdown to bring the rave and LGBTQIA activism via Zoom. Now hosting club nights in person, QHP were the perfect start to a night that felt fabulously liberated and inclusive from start to finish.
This tour comes off the back of latest Years & Years album Night Call, so it was only right that Olly made his stage entrance from a dystopian-looking phone box. Dressed in a shiny Matrix-style PVC trench, he kicked off with album title track Night Call, then recent single and Galantis collab, Sweet Talker. Straight away the production was dazzling, with gorgeous dancers and backing singers performing super tight choreography, futuristic set design and a stage to ceiling video wall backdrop. Like I said, a SHOW.
After album tracks Consequences and Sooner or Later, Olly (now in a white trench and leather trousers) gave us a beautifully slowed down version of hit song Shine, with gospel-style vocal support from his singers.
Next up was fan fave Muscle, with Olly and his dancers giving us all the sexy leather vibes, followed by two more chart-topping collab singles – Play, released with Jax Jones, and Sunlight, with The Magician. A quick set change later, Olly turned up the heat performing the next set of songs weaving in and out of a row of nightclub cubicles, including Sanctify and Rendezvous. He’s truly magnetic to watch.
Once the stage was clear again (I can’t even remember seeing them clear it, the production was that slick), Olly launched into 2016 hit Desire and recent single Hallucination, dancing in front of trippy technicolour video background.
Finally time for him to take a breather, Olly then introduced local Brighton couple Tara and Marley to the stage as Tara had ‘something she wanted to ask’ and of course, the crowd went crazy. I’ve never seen a live proposal before but it was ridiculously sweet (she said yes!), and I’m not sure anyone’s ever looked as surprised as Marley when Tara went down on one knee.
At the same time, a grand piano had appeared on stage, so Olly took to the ivories to perform a couple of slower songs – 20 Minutes and a spine-tingling rendition of the soulful Eyes Shut – showing off the full power of his voice and vocal range. Then, turning the tempo right back up, he climbed on top of the piano to cover the 1987 hit It’s a Sin, paying homage to the Pet Shop Boys and reminding us all of his star turn as Ritchie in the show of the same name.
A final quick costume change into a white corset, black knee-high boots and black full-length gloves, Olly got into a propped up double bed to perform the sensual dance track Crave, complete with dancers as floor lamps on either side. He finished the show with hits Starstruck, If You’re Over Me and my personal fave, King, and genuinely looked like he was having a ball throughout. We left on a high after one of the most exciting, imaginative and high-energy gigs I’ve seen in a while… maybe even years and years.
Photo: Strong Island Media at Victorious Festival