Since the release of their ridiculously catchy and uplifting single, King, last year, followed by a successful debut album, Years and Years have escalated through the music industry very quickly. A devoted fan from the start, I have watched this timid yet wonderful trio of musicians spread their wings and rise to fame and rightly so, for their amalgamation (hey look at me I’m an English student) of electro-pop sound and Olly Alexander’s honest lyrics about devotion and heart-break make their songs both easy on the ears and perfect to cut some shapes to. Having already seen them perform at The Lemon Grove in Exeter, their performance at Plymouth Pavilions last week certainly highlighted how far they have come.
One of the best things about gigs like these is scouting new tunes from potentially brilliant supporting acts, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the two acts preceding Years and Years. Mabel, an up-and-coming electro R&B artist, set the tone for the rest of the night and, for someone so young, her sass was inspirational. The perfected resting bitch face with the occasional chocolate-box smile, the constant hair flicks, the self-controlled bopping – she was iceberg lettuce-cool. Somewhere between a 90’s girl-band and Jessie Ware’s clean-cut tone, she is definitely putting her own stamp on contemporary music. I only wish the crowd had engaged more with her, especially when her hypnotic cover of Destiny’s Child’s Say My Name rang through the air. How was I the only one singing along to that???!! At the moment she only has two singles, My Boy My Town and Know Me Better, out, but she is definitely one to keep an eye out for in the future.
Next up was Danish singer, MØ, and I’m still unsure as to how that’s pronounced. I’ve narrowed it down to MO, MOO, MOW (like cow) or MEUGH. Quite the contrast to Mabel, MØ is the new queen of synth-pop, and her stage-presence was electric. She was totally in her own world when she sang, snaking and leaping her way around the stage to the more up-beat songs from her album No Mythologies To Follow such as Kamikaze and Walk This Way (my personal favourite). For songs with a deeper and glassier sound like Dust Is Gone, she was able to dial it back, but her unique voice where you can detect a slight Scandinavian twang adapted effortlessly. Shout out to her awesome drummer for crushing some crazy beatz. That sounds sarcastic but seriously he was insane.
Even though my legs were beginning to struggle, this did not stop me from jamming my heart out when Years and Years finally made their way on to stage. From the first song, you could tell that there was going to be a fair amount of emphasis on the aesthetics ie. cue epileptic light show. However, this did not take away from the musical brilliance of the band and in particular, Olly Alexander’s iridescent voice. More or less every note was flawless, even in songs like Eyes Shut and Memo where he glossed over the higher notes without any trouble. Even more impressive than that, was the way they connected with the audience without having to baby talk us in to engaging with them. Everyone (apart from the woman in front of me who called it a night after hearing three songs – good effort Susan) was getting into it, especially when they played the up-beat classics like Shine, King and Take Shelter.
It would be very easy to be a grouch, and say that I preferred their gig in Exeter because the venue was smaller and the focus was on their music rather than the performance, but I’m not a grouch. I would however admit that they don’t need all the extravagance that acts like One Direction rely on, because their music can create enough buzz in the audience without it. The lights and the bolder outfits didn’t make it any better for me, because they don’t need that to prove how brilliant their sound is. BUT, that’s right I’m touching the but, they gave their more recent performance a 90s disco/R&B vibe that totally floated my boaty. In some of their own songs they extended and adapted some of the instrumental parts, giving them a funky, urban beat a la Daft Punk. Groovy. A. F. Now please do that on the new album. They also experimented with some interesting covers that went down a treat. Their remix of Katy Perry’s Dark Horse and Drake’s Hotline Bling had such a soulful vibe to it but still retained that slinky 90s edge that you can grind to. You can watch the video of them doing this cover for Radio 1 below but honestly it does not do it justice, because it was a gazillion times better live. Before they came back on to finish with King, Olly brought MØ on to sing their own version of Brandy and Monica’s R&B duet, The Boy Is Mine. It would be quite hard to put your own stamp on this classic without making it sound OTT, but they remained true to their electronic perfection and brought the booty(licious) back. They acted out the whole sexy rivalry that’s described in the lyrics which was amazing as well.
All in all, the boys did good but the girls did even better. I’m so thrilled that I have discovered some new girl power to add to my music library and I would check out both Mabel and MØ if you haven’t already. With regards to Years and Years’ performance itself, the sound and vibe was on point as ever before, but ditch the light show guys. Not only does it distract from your bootiful sound but you’re alienating yourself from your epileptic fans.
Peace out y’all