Live: Years & Years Take Shelter at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, PA

Years & Years at Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA - 18 September, 2015

Maggie's Take


British-based electro-R&B group Years & Years is already somewhat of an Atwood favorite, and their debut LP Communion (Polydor UK) has been on a fast-track toward success since its release in July. Their distinctly quixotic and harmonious sounds have firmly planted the group in the world of alt-R&B, and it seems as though their live shows are only out to prove the group’s worth that much more. Atwood Magazine attended the band’s September 18th show at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, only to be blown away by the band’s showmanship, energy, and of course, their unrivaled talents.

The band aptly opened their show with their album opener: the ethereal, hypnotic “Foundation,” which was accompanied by very dim, dark blue lighting. It allowed for frontman Olly Alexander to truly utilize his unique voice and remind everyone in the audience how truly talented he is. Following this particularly magical opening, the song then seamlessly shifted into “Take Shelter,” which subsequently caused immediate pandemonium. The transition between the songs almost made it feel as though they were meant to go together all along.

The show continued its groovy flow with crowd favorites “Desire” and “Worship;” songs that, when played to a sold-out crowd of 1200 die-hard fans, were bound to send everyone into a frenzy.

my longing drives me crazy for you // 🔱

A photo posted by Maggie McHale (@vivalamaggs) on


Following the upbeat vibes offered by the first few songs, the group then brought the mood down with “Memo,” a slower ballad akin to the likes of The 1975 or LANY. During this performance, however, Olly and the gang were joined on stage by a special guest: a young girl who had been standing in the front row holding a sign that read: “OLLY, CAN I STAND NEXT TO YOU DURING MEMO?” She was happily brought on stage to sit with Olly at his piano while he crooned, and she was by no means shy about it: she sang along, and playfully pointed at Olly when he sung “Who wouldn’t want it when he looks like that?” It was a sweet, intimate moment that completely personalized the show. “Memo” was followed by the empyreal “Gold,” whose beat-driven backing track brought the crowd right back up; while the next track, “Ties,” had to be foregone due to technical difficulties. But no matter — Years & Years pushed through effortlessly, with Olly chatting up the crowd as his bandmates sorted out the issue. They then continued with “Shine,” their most recent single off the album, easily recovering from the previous technical mishap. 

Years & Years at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, PA, 18 September 2015
Years & Years at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, PA, 18 September 2015

The band then brought the house vibes down again with the heartfelt, rapturous ballad “Eyes Shut,” with the group stripping the song down to its core. The audience sang back passionately, fists thrusting in the air, shaking their heads and belting – appropriately – with their eyes shut. Not entirely bringing the tone back up, “Eyes Shut” was followed by the wistful “Without,” which, though slower in tone, allowed the audience to continue with their impassioned fist-pumping and fervent belting. The show continued with more upbeat tracks: a cover of Blu Cantrell’ s “Breathe” (which felt as though it could have been one of Years & Years’ own original tracks), the bouncy dance tune “Border,” and finally, the celestial and beatific “Real.” The group subsequently said their thank-yous and exited the stage, which caused the audience to begin chanting for the track everyone had uniformly been anticipating the most: the band’s most famous and most popular track, “King.” Of course, the group happily returned to the stage, and immediately jumped into their explosive, addictive club track. The crowd went wild; this was how you close out a show.

Years & Years at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, PA, 18 September 2015
Years & Years at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, PA, 18 September 2015

As a whole, the show boasted an experience truly like no other. Years & Years know how to perform, and they know how to do it well. The lighting accompanied with each track merely added extra aesthetic elements that played perfectly off of the music; Olly Alexander’s alluring, rhythmic vocals sound just the same as they do on the album. Ultimately, Years & Years were truly the “kings” of the night, and everyone present gladly bowed down.

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