“I’ve always dreamed of playing here,” Olly Alexander tells the Leeds Festival crowd on Friday, early evening. “Ever since all my friends got their GCSE results and fucked off to Leeds.” He asks his audience who’s had their own GCSE results in. “I wouldn’t get too upset – they’re not worth anything anyway, are they?”
Don’t believe him, kids. GCSEs provide a broad basic training in any number of skills that are useful for later working life, and if you don’t have loads of them, no one will ever hire you, and you will die alone, covered in excrement and chip fat, in thousands of pounds of payday loan debt.
Unless, of course, you become an overnight success in the music biz, like these three. Truth be told, overnight is a bit unfair on a band who’d been gigging for five years, but the ongoing hype Years & Years have enjoyed since winning the BBC Sound Of 2015 makes them feel like they’ve been beamed down by a commercial radio controller who programmed their fantasies into a 3D printer.
Who are they? We’ve barely had time to register. Yet by osmosis, we’ve all been absorbing these songs all year – in every synch or ident or passing car radio. Naturally, all that exposure to has added up to one of the biggest crowds of the weekend – a proper smash, conjured in mere months.
Frontman Olly Alexander starts his show centre-stage, alone, swaddled in red light, for hyper-emotional mega-ballad ‘Foundation’, looking soft and vulnerable like a statue of Eros made out of tears. Then the crooked calypso beat of ‘Take Shelter’ begins. It all kicks off, and the tent is practically standing on the tent’s shoulders to get a further glimpse of him. ‘Desire’ provokes singalong of every word, as does ‘Real’. He sits down at his piano keyboard for slushy ballad ‘Eyes Shut’, the effect is more introspective ’70s songwriter than boyband cast-off, and ‘Shine’ illustrates just why they were one of only two bands booked to showcase ‘modern music’ on June’s revival of Channel 4’s TFI Friday. They exit with yet another Big Tune, ‘King’, to the delight of the audience.
Years & Years, the results of all your hard work in 2015 are now in. ‘D’ for Originality, but a big fat ‘A’* for Crowd Pleasing.