When we first saw Years & Years live over a year ago, they were playing a support set for Say Lou Lou in the cramped spaces of XOYO and managed to severely upstage the main event that night. At the time we said: “there are melodies galore, ready-made hits waiting to be heard, and a genuinely exciting talent in the form of this London trio.”
Clearly that was an understatement, given just how mad the trio’s trajectory has been. After a support set from RAYE (do check her out), the newly-blond Olly Alexander sidles on to stage after his bandmates to the deafening cheers of teenage fangirls and the archetypal Radio 1 listener. His look and stage presence might be more Miley than what you might expect from the lead singer of a UK indie-pop band, but he’s lost none of his charm or charisma.
Charisma is what gets Years & Years through this night. It’s a raucous start with Take Shelter and Desire, 100% feelgood anthems that make Shepherd’s Bush Empire feel too small for them. But after a change in pace with the excellent Memo, only Gold really stands out from the new songs, which generally veer away from banger territory.
It’s a gearshift that Years & Years don’t quite recover from, as even their Sean Paul / Blu Cantrell cover is far too lax to rouse a deflated audience. It’s only when King appears in the encore that we’re reminded of why they’re such a success. It’s a pop performance in its own league and one that toinight’s set – and hopefully the forthcoming debut album – could do with a lot more of.