Few shows transport you to a dirty phone booth to start your night.
But that’s where Olly Alexander, singer and now solo member of Years & Years, kicked off the show which features his entire vision for his Night Call album. Starting the evening with the song that named the album, Alexander captivated the crowd from the start as he and his dancers somehow transformed seedy British phone booths into a stage that sold his vision of a gritty world. but sexy after hours.
He had barely stopped to catch his breath before launching into Sweet Talker, another favorite album that put the arena on its feet.
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By a small review, it was perhaps recognizable that this Manchester game was the last date of Alexander’s tour – his voice had a little trouble keeping up with the intense and impressive choreography. But he was such a captivating performer that it hardly mattered – he clearly felt every word he sang.
Alongside Alexander, the stunning visuals of the show made it utterly captivating. Alexander and his team were able to create on-screen scenarios that were transferable to the stage through clever scenography – conveyor belts with a moving backdrop gave him the illusion of running, and a set of booths did a gritty but steamy setting for Rendezvous.
Each song had its own set-up – the floor was transformed into a gym with bars and Hallucination with 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 seated at the piano. “Thank you all for coming out tonight and being there,” he said, showing a softer, more emotional side to his personality and his music. “And thanks in particular to Manchester, because this evening sold the best of the whole tour.”
The crowd waved their phone torches and cheered Alexander on as he worked his way through a tearful rendition of Eyes Shut, pausing occasionally as he was overwhelmed with emotion. It was a touching addition to the show that brought me to tears and filled the room with a thousand voices singing of grief and strength. Despite the room of 21,000 people, you sensed 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 into the arena.
The show ended with two of Years & Years’ most popular hits – If You’re Over Me, and finally King. Alexander’s boundless energy and impressive performance were matched by the captivating visuals that might have overpowered a less imposing performer – but the two blended seamlessly to create an enthralling experience.