Years & Years, the trio with the doubled-up band name, have increasingly become all about one man as they release their second album. Singer Olly Alexander is the only one on the cover of Palo Santo, the only one giving the interviews, and was the only one wearing PVC shorts with a stairway to himself at this one-off release party.
Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Turkmen played bass and keyboards on raised platforms. Although Goldsworthy was occasionally gifted a ludicrously large red keytar, all eyes were on Alexander and the four dancers writhing slowly around him.
Arena fillers since their debut album became a platinum selling number one in 2015, this felt like a major pop show in a smaller space, complete with room-dominating video screens showing sci-fi cityscapes, two confetti explosions and a stunning set piece with a floor-to-ceiling sparkly gown. If You’re Over Me, the first top 10 hit from the new album, was catchy enough to unite a stadium.
However, polished perfection was far from the goal. Alexander, who has previously made a BBC Three documentary titled Growing Up Gay and spoken in detail about his mental health, peppered the lyrics of Karma with his issues. On Sanctify and Hallelujah, he joined Madonna in the fertile space between sex and religion.
The dancers, though apparently following routines, avoided formation moves in favour of something looser and stranger. As they looped around Alexander during Desire’s climax, the room appeared less a concert venue than a sweat-streaked nightclub, ripe with abandon.
The frontman appeared delighted with the entire endeavour, knowing his band have cracked the problem of the difficult second album and can last as a unique pop proposition. Valentino, a song so new it isn’t on the current release, suggested that he’s already confident enough to be thinking even further ahead.
Dec 5, O2 Arena, SE10. the02.co.uk