REVIEW: Years and Years, O2 Academy, Newcastle

Years and Years playing to a sold-out O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.
Years and Years playing to a sold-out O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.
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Years and Years kicked off the weekend for a sell-out crowd at Newcastle’s O2 Academy last night with a lively synthpop spectacle.

The chart-topping trio, who rose to prominence this year through massive pop hits King and Shine, were backed by a dazzling light show as they kept a youthful audience dancing for more than an hour.

Years and Years playing to a sold-out O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Years and Years playing to a sold-out O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Frontman and focal point Olly Alexander was energetic as ever, engaging with the audience and inviting one young fan - Ryan - to dance on-stage with him during the penultimate song of their main set.

This was the North-East stop of a headline tour that caps off a remarkable 12 months for Years and Years, who started 2015 hotly-tipped as the next big thing, but could never have expected to have a No 1 album and evolve into UK synthpop’s hottest commodity.

The evening was opened by Australia’s Oscar Key Sung, an as-yet unheralded solo artist whose sound resembles the more melancholy tracks in the Years and Years catalogue.

His chilled set - consisting of just him and a laptop - started well, although suffered from poor sound and a sense that his chilled music would struggle to captivate a crowd waiting for a party.

Years and Years playing to a sold-out O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Years and Years playing to a sold-out O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Small pockets of gyration in the form of some Olly-esque dance moves were as lively as it got, as crowd interest petered out, although he showed glimpses of potential during his brief performance.

The lead support came courtesy of Swedish pop sensation Tove Styrke, whose introduction to UK audiences on the tour follows rave reviews for her latest album, the “feminist pop triumph” Kiddo.

An exciting addition to the tour, she performed a showcase of her hottest tracks, receiving a positive reception for songs including of Ego and the reggae-inspired Borderline.

Her curious but impressive cover of Britney Spears’s ...Baby One More Time, in her own synth-laden style, also worked well and got some of the crowd singing along to the familiar lyrics.

Years and Years playing to a sold-out O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Years and Years playing to a sold-out O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Bratty closing number Even If I’m Loud It Doesn’t Mean I’m Talking to You worked less well in a live setting, but her 30-minute set - which ended with an appreciative message of “Takk takk!”, in a nod to her nationality - provided a glimpse of a femme fatale that may emerge as a force in pop over the coming years.

But it was headliners Years and Years that had sold-out the O2 Academy, coming a long way since their days as a five-piece on the hip Kitsuné label and their first hit - as a featured artist on house track Sunlight - in the summer of 2014.

Their appearance was preceded by a deafening bass track that was uncomfortable to listen to without earplugs, before the band mercifully took to the stage, with frontman Olly last to appear.

Despite being a natural showman, he seemed almost star-struck by the crowd, and descended into brief giggles during Take Shelter at the beginning of the set due to the overwhelming reaction of the audience.

Years and Years playing to a sold-out O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Years and Years playing to a sold-out O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

He quickly got into the groove after that, showing off his trademark dance moves to popular single Desire and summer anthem Shine, backed by a spectacular multi-coloured light show centred around a letter ‘Y’ backdrop.

With Olly the centre attraction, fellow group members Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Türkmen were left to flank him from behind their synths and drum pads, although he would dance with them on multiple occasions.

There were mellow moments, such as latest single Eyes Shut, for which Olly took a seat at the piano and flaunted his talent on the keys while the audience sang along with his every breath.

But the show was mostly about a sense of fun, meaning their upbeat material and a hyper-active stage show, with a fun cover of Blu Cantrell’s 2003 hit Breathe to boot.

Olly spotted a young fan, called Ryan, holding a sign asking to dance on stage at one point, which he duly arranged to happen.

It was one of a number of examples of the frontman coming across as a genuinely likeable individual, who clearly remains modest and surprised by the band’s success and finds every moment of their live show a great deal of fun.

Swedish singer Tove Stryke was the main support act for Years and Years at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Swedish singer Tove Stryke was the main support act for Years and Years at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

The encore was then brief, consisting of signature track and March’s No 1 single King, before the band departed to huge screams of approval from an adoring crowd.

It was a night-club atmosphere throughout and, while pop success can be fleeting, Years and Years demonstrated exactly why they are currently top of the game.

Swedish singer Tove Stryke was the main support act for Years and Years at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Swedish singer Tove Stryke was the main support act for Years and Years at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Swedish singer Tove Stryke was the main support act for Years and Years at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Swedish singer Tove Stryke was the main support act for Years and Years at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Swedish singer Tove Stryke was the main support act for Years and Years at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Swedish singer Tove Stryke was the main support act for Years and Years at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Oscar Key Sung was the opening act for Years and Years at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.

Oscar Key Sung was the opening act for Years and Years at the O2 Academy. Pic: Katy Blackwood.