Years & Years – Brighton Centre – 4th December 2018

Photo by Dan Whitehouse

Having formed in 2010, Years & Years have become a British electro-pop sensation, featuring on tracks with the likes of Clean Bandit and releasing two highly-acclaimed albums, in their debut Communion and recent sophomore album Palo Santo.

The last time I saw the band was during their 2015 tour, at the Brighton Centre. This time around they would be returning to the venue to promote their new record, with support from Astrid S.

At the age of 22, Astrid S has already put out plenty of single releases and for Years & Years there definitely couldn’t have been a better support act. As the Norwegian singer took to the stage beaming and looking across the crowd, there was a real appreciation both from her and the audience. This singer’s performance was a colourful, festival-feel spectacle, full of pure fun and energy. Opener track ‘Emotion’ was a definite highlight and Astrid was a crowdpleaser from start to finish.

After a winning support set, it was time for Years & Years to take to the stage, for what would be their warm up to their O2 Arena show. From the beginning, it was clear this show was destined for the likes of the O2, in fact the Brighton Centre hasn’t seen a show this big in quite a while. The performance included everything from pyrotechnics, stunning neon lighting and backing videos to create a well rounded and electric atmosphere.

Opening with powerhouse ‘Sanctify’ from their new album, lead singer Olly Alexander moved effortlessly across the stunning and colourful stage, surrounded by backing dancers. Smiling consistently, Alexander has developed the showmanship to match the pop icon he has become, with an alluring stage design to go with it. In comparison to their last Brighton Centre performance, you could tell this is a band who have progressed immensely and been given the budget to match.

During well-known ballad ‘Eyes Shut’, the emotion swept the room and Alexander’s vocals were witnessed at their finest. Despite his impressive vocal range, it was mostly during the slower tracks fans could admire them, as there was so much going on visually, but this is in no way a negative, just a reflection of the amount of effort that has been put into the Palo Santo Tour.

There were costume changes to rival even Lady Gaga, with Alexander taking to stage at one point baring a long robe which stretched down the stage. Whilst wearing this the platform he was stood upon raised close to the roof, creating an illusion he was getting taller and looking over the crowd.

As the show progressed, the setlist consisted of a great mixture of tracks from both of their albums, along with a couple of covers. The band’s cover of Ariana Grande’s ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ was a lovely addition to the set and the covers allowed the backing singers to show off their own vocals.

Despite the consistent set, there were a few specific highlights, particularly ‘Karma’ from their new album and oldies such as ‘Desire’ and ‘Worship’.

After an encore the group closed with ‘King’ which, despite being one of their early tracks, has aged gracefully, allowing for a spectacular finish.

For anybody who’s seen Years & Years before this tour, this would’ve felt off the scale in comparison. As the band inevitably continue to keep climbing in popularity, fans can only hope these type of shows continue. They started as a good pop band with some catchy tunes, but Alexander is now well on his way to cementing himself as a modern pop icon.

Dan Whitehouse