Not very many shows transport you to a dirty telephone box to start your evening.
But that’s where Olly Alexander, vocalist and now solo member of Years & Years, kicked off the show that puts his entire vision for his Night Call album onto the stage. Starting the evening off with the song that named the album, Alexander had the crowd hooked from the start as him and his dancers somehow turned grotty British telephone boxes into a stage that sold his vision of a gritty yet sexy after hours world.
He had barely even stopped to catch his breath before launching into Sweet Talker, another favorite album that brought the sand to their feet.
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By a small way of criticism, it was perhaps recognizable that this Manchester fixture was the last date of Alexander’s tour – his voice struggled slightly to keep up with the intense and impressive choreography. But he was such a captivating performer that this hardly even mattered – he clearly felt every word he sung.
Alongside Alexander, the stunning visuals of the show made it utterly captivating. Alexander and his team of him managed to create scenarios on screen that were transferable to the stage with clever set design-treadmills along with a moving backdrop gave him the illusion of running, and a set of cubicles made a gritty yet steamy set for Rendezvous.
Each song had it’s own staging – the floor was turned into a gym setting with bars, and Hallucination featuring a trippy backdrop of a blue and yellow eye made up of Alexander’s face.
The show reached a poignant head as Alexander addressed the crowd while sat at a piano. “Thank you all for just coming out tonight and being here,” he said, showing a softer, more emotional side to his personality and music from him. “And thank you, especially Manchester, because this night sold out the best on the whole tour.”
The crowd waved their phone torches and cheered Alexander on as he made his way through a tearful rendition of Eyes Shut, occasionally stopping as he became overwhelmed by emotion. It was a touching addition to the show that brought me to tears and filled the room with a thousand voices singing of heartbreak and strength. Despite the 21,000 strong venue, you felt a human side to Alexander that was intimate and moving.
Alexander then launched into a slow, piano version of the Pet Shop Boys hit It’s a Sin, which was also the name of the popular television drama depicting London during the AIDs crisis, in which Alexander starred. But after the first verse the lights flashed red and the song picked up in a style much more reminiscent of the original song, bringing the energy back to the arena.
The show was brought to a close with two of Years & Years’ most popular hits – If You’re Over Me, and finally King. Alexander’s unlimited energy and impressive performance was matched by the gripping visuals that might’ve dominated a less commanding performer – but the two blended together seamlessly to make an enthralling experience.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.