Live Review: Years and Years – Mandela Hall – 4/11/15

2015 has been massive for Years and Years to say the least. Awarded BBC’s Sound of 2015 and topping the UK album charts with their album “Communion”, their single “King” and not to mention “Shine” reaching no. 2, their rise to fame through the duration of the year has felt meteoric. Rapidly selling out the modest venue of the Mandela Hall, Years and Years feel absolutely destined for larger venues. A somewhat smug feeling pervades the evening that those in attendance at the gig will be able to say in a few years from now that they were around for the band’s modest beginnings.

The support band for the evening were London based Nimmo. Launching the night off in a suitably electro fashion, Nimmo is certainly an act that can adequately warm the audience up for Years and Years through the similarity of their electro infused sounds. Fronted by Sarah Nimmo and Reva Gauntlet, Nimmo sound somewhat like The xx meets Disclosure. Their combined vocals, reminiscent of La Roux and Janele Monaé respectively, compliment one another especially on their song “Dilute This.” Overall their set delivered an eclectic mix of electronic, synth sound combined keyboard that lends a layer of variation and brings to mind the piano infused string of hits Jess Glynn has belted out.

Years and Years were welcomed to the stage by the eagerest of screams from their audience. Getting their set off without delay front man Olly Alexander proceeds to bust some questionable dance moves that continue almost relentlessly throughout their set. Energetic and with impressive vocals right from the onset it’s established very early that Years and Years sound pretty impeccable live.

When “Desire” has the audience singing along almost instantaneously, Olly Alexander looks blown away by the enthusiasm of the audience. Indeed, right the way through Years and Years set, Alexander seems, through laughter and looks of disbelief, not quite able to grasp the position he is in and the ability he has to very easily get a crowd clapping and singing along to something he and his bandmates created. It’s quite heartening to see this throughout the gig as the band clearly are still not attuned to the extent of their fame or at least still delighted by it.

The following song “Worship” further demonstrates the devotion of their fanbase as Alexander is at times inaudible under hundreds of audience member’s voices singing along word for word. “So Belfast is pretty good then?” Alexander says laughing filling the silence only to have the audience screaming once again.

As the band work through their synth infused, electropop set list with the audience in rhapsody, Years and Years skill at creating outstanding pop music really stands out. Alexis Petridis wrote that “Communion” “feels weirdly like a kind of omnipresent, nondescript background noise, the music you always seem to be listening to without actively choosing to – while queuing in shops, or waiting in cafes” The exact opposite however feels at work in the duration of the evening as Years and Years demonstrate the irresistibly catchy nature of their music.

Yet soft, piano charged song “Eyes Shut” suggests a whole other layer to the band’s sound that moves beyond mere electropop. Exploring a sound that is more comparable to the likes of Sam Smith, “Eyes Shut” is emotionally charged yet manages to retain that quality beckoning you to sing along. It is a particular highlight of the show as it showcases that Years and Years have deceived us into thinking they are simply an electro pop band when there is much more at work in their sound.

Their cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” however quickly brings the focus back to electropop. It’s one of those fun, unlikely covers that actually adapts really well to Alexander’s Sam Smith-esque vocals and the signature, synth infused Years and Years sound that has become so well known.

Closing the evening with an encore consisting of – of course – their chart topping hit “King” it undeniably ends the evening on a high note. Unlike many pop bands and artists today, Years and Years flaunt how skilled as musicians they actually are. Alexander’s vocals are immaculate right the way through their show and there’s no nasty surprises in not matching the sound of the album. It seems like a pretty safe bet that next time Years and Years are in Belfast they’ll be playing a larger venue but for now they seem to be enjoying the onset of their fame.

Review: The Late Twos – HMV Belfast 4/07/2015

Local Belfast band The Late Twos performed a free, afternoon gig in HMV in the midst of one of Belfast’s busiest times of the year – the Tall Ships festival.

For an up and coming band this festival atmosphere could only work in their favour and indeed for a small gig, The Late Twos attracted a considerable crowd to hear what they had to offer. The five piece band was formed in late 2010 and in that space of time have produced two EPs and their single “Never Mind.”

Without a word the band immediately kick off their set and what is striking from the start is how despite having a small stage the band aren’t put off by it, instead lead singer Matty is dancing and making full use of their space. Their sound is ultimately influenced by a range of musical styles from indie toT pop punk to Brit pop and this is evident within their first two fast paced songs. They bring it down a notch slightly with their more melodic offering of “Modette to Ladette.” This is the first song that the audience seem very familiar with, singing along to it and indeed it is easy to imagine this song in particular being belted out at a summer festival. It has that certain irresistible summer, anthem-like quality.

Keeping the audience on their toes after this slower number they jump right into the faster paced “Get Down Before I Pull You Down” and even from the title of this song the influence of Arctic Monkeys is evident. Like Arctic Monkeys, The Late Twos have a laid back, down to earth attitude and their music deals with similar topics such as parties, drinking and get togethers. Yet alongside this laid back attitude their enthusiasm for performing shines out and it highlights simply how comfortable they are on stage.

A dramatic, guitar infused build up at the start of “Get Down Before I Pull You Down” won’t be the first occasion during this gig that the band’s music can be strongly compared to the heavy, fast paced but melodic sounds of The Vaccines. The Vaccines’ music is absolutely emboldened by the degree to which it is associated with summer music festivals and it is increasingly difficult throughout The Late Twos’ set to not imagine their music being played at a sunny festival. Indeed it is the simplicity of the chorus of “Get Down Before I Pull You Down” that renders this song particularly infectious to sing along to and gives off the sense that this band are really hitting the nail on the head with potential festival anthems.

Providing relief from the declamatory “Get Down Before I Pull You Down” is the slower paced “Sierra Leone” which is the first song thus far to really showcase the vocal range of lead singer Matty. Hitting the high notes in the chorus coupled with an impressive guitar solo, “Sierra Leone” despite not being one of the band’s better known songs really showcases, overall, the musical skill of The Late Twos.

The remainder of their gig is comprised of songs that the audience would be most familiar with such as “Don’t Wanna Stop This Dance” and their self titled track “The Late Twos.” These songs in particular feel as though they are the ones that the band themselves enjoy playing the most. Encouraging the audience to sing along, their lyrics are difficult to resist engaging with, especially their self titled track that sings about “A fridge full of Stella and a bag full of songs.” It is The Late Twos’ layered sound that moves from pop punk to something more reminiscent of The Strokes, combined with relatable lyrics, that makes their music so gripping and ensures the fact that they have much more in store.