Years & Years emerge as fully-formed pop icons at the launch of their second album Palo Santo, in the suitably temple-like surroundings of London's Roundhouse.
From the start it’s clear that this is a significant step up from the Communion era: the core trio of Olly Alexander, Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Turkmen are joined by a troupe of dancers, and backed by clips from the album’s short film. Huge neon symbols from the alphabet developed for the album punctuate the stage, and glitter temporary tattoo versions adorn the arms and necks of audience members. Even the stage hands and roadies are dressed in matching red boiler suits and collars, familiar from the album’s down-and-dirty, S&M-influenced visuals. There is a sense of the show as a complete work of art, the culmination of Years & Years’ dual obsessions with sex and worship.
Palo Santo is captivating in a live setting: “Sanctify” becomes even more filthy with the addition of loud live drums, opening the show then segueing perfectly into its Communion twin “Take Shelter”. The dancing-as-sex-as-religious-experience mantra of “Hallelujah” manifests onstage as Alexander works his way through the line of dancers, teasing and captivating. The album’s lighter moments - sassy kiss-off “Karma” and recent single “If You’re Over Me” - are super fun in a live setting.
Aptly for a show billed as a ‘Palo Santo Party’ there is a celebratory atmosphere throughout. Lesser groups wouldn’t dare make use of glitter cannons before the encore, but Years & Years boldly set them off during the third song. It’s an audacious move, and fitting for a band whose confidence has increased hugely between albums.
The star of the show, of course, is Olly Alexander. Only a few years ago he was hiding behind the microphone stand in baggy clothes; tonight he’s getting low and grinding against the stage in a sheer tank top. During “Palo Santo” - an album highlight and the heart of tonight’s show - he sings from a raised platform, draped in a glittering cape which, flows to the ground beneath him. It’s a joy to watch him become the fully-formed pop star he was always destined to be and, above all else, it’s a privilege to witness Years & Years making good on all their promise.