Review by Fran Prince with Photography by Bianca Barrett

You haven’t seen much until you’ve seen Olly Alexander – of Years & Years – thrust and twerk in a macramé top and platform heels. The quintessence of LGBT, the sensual showman and his crew, Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Türkmen bring their synth-pop swagger to Arena Birmingham for an all-out energised gig.

Years & Years

Since their break-through single King and first album ‘Communion’ their sound has refined and showmanship has become radically theatrical. We are welcomed to ‘Palo Santo’ their new 2018 album tour, which focuses on Olly Alexanders life – his fans almost a fly on the wall to the intimate moments and challenges he has faced as an openly gay man.

Literally meaning ‘Holy Wood’ there’s a sort of religious iconography to this album, with the words associated with healing and banishing evil spirits, it’s almost an album of emotion and acceptance. Secondly, the band has created a place from Palo Santo, an apocalyptic fictional world where only few humans have survived.

Years & Years

Years & Years

Coating the stage in an orange city-scape they introduce first song Sanctify with female voice, almost technologically produced it claims “do not bore us, we want to feel” as if the band are here to provoke an emotion in the audience.

If you’ve seen the music videos produced from this album you’ll know there’s a progressive storytelling within the lyrics and setting as Olly sings: “Father, forgive me for finding the truth, Love takes its toll on me, I’m just like you.”

Years & Years

Dancing intimately with a tattooed male dancer, like his sexual puppeteer they intertwine on the stage and it’s obvious Sanctify reflects on the struggles of sexuality and relationships because of it.

Wearing a nude top garnished in illustrative tattoos and completing the look with a diamanté choker, his outfit is provocative, as are the dancers.

Years & Years

Years & Years

Taking us back a few years, they bring out the techno vibes of Shine and already the audience are synchronised in an impulsive wave of bodily movements.

As other dancers enter, a circus appearance springs to my mind, with a man in feathered pants (like something from Swan Lake) and a woman in a sequined body-suit join in a contemporary disjointed appearing dance.

Years & Years

The admiral front-man blows kisses and points to his fans, gradually picking out crowd members as if he’s performing solely for them.

Olly Alexander’s voice hums authentically on track Eyes Shut, as he takes to the piano the recognisable interlude is sung back to him.

Years & Years

Years & Years

A musical note designed keytar comes out on track Desire and a steel drum like overlay plays whilst the singer entertains us with fractured choreography portrays silhouettes amongst smoke in an eerie lighting set up. The crowd claps along in unison.

Alexander’s effortless and crisp vocals are as dominating as his persona, he astonishes his fans, whilst elevating into the sky on song Palo Santo. In a glistening gown, he raises up like shooting star in front of the moon whilst the dress cascades down almost endlessly.

Years & Years

His costumer changes are a thing of beauty and underneath he reveals crocheted tassel top and white trousers which are set against a psychedelic background resonate of a kaleidoscope.

A body rocking rhythm takes a hold of the audience on Rendezvous, the jungle inspired drum beats and rhythmic instruments on this track as well as Hallelujah reminds me of Glass Animals indie-tronic 80’s club like backings.

Years & Years

Years & Years

Welcoming backing singers Phebe Edwards and Joell Fender to the stage, they smash Ariane Grande’s No Tears Left to Cry, followed by Madonna’s Like A Prayer, whilst Olly prepared for another amazing outfit swap.

A sexualised shadow appeared in a lightbox, gyrating and broken limb movements looked like a mannequin on track Worship. The dancer’s revelled within and around the box gravitating to the light and Olly Alexander.

Years & Years

Screams unfolded as If You’re Over Me broke out, the singer seemed malleable to almost any shape, his supple body and energised performance mesmerising, even when breathless he was faultless.

A thunder of applauds greeted the band for their encore, laughing at his platform heeled boots tearing and “feeling like Cher” the gracious artist thanked his audience for their undeniable support.

Years & Years

Years & Years

All for You and fame making hit King stimulated the audience into a dancing frenzy, and Alexander leaves us with an addictive array of tunes lingering on our lips, whilst we continued to celebrate race, gender and sexual positivity alongside this stunning singer.

Years & Years

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