Review: Years and Years at Park West

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Photo courtesy of Kevin Quin.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Quin.

British boy band Years & Years treated Chicago to a stellar night of music and dancing last Tuesday at the intimate Park West venue in Lincoln Park. Supported by New York-based vocalist Tei Shi, both acts managed to attract a sold-out crowd on a breezy weekday night.

Dozens of eager fans poured into the venue once doors were open. High-school aged girls rushed to smear their faces in glitter, adjust their homemade flower crowns, and practice the perfect selfie angles before the show began. Anxious, many speculated about the punctuality of the band.

“I hope they’re not late,” one audience member sighed. “I saw them last night at the secret show and it was amazing because they were on time.”

Almost as if she was listening backstage, Tei Shi then calmly walks out and places herself center stage. Without an introduction or greeting, she slowly began to enthrall herself into the first song. This left the crowd confused, as puzzled faces turned to one another in disgust.

The confusion was soon wiped away from everyone’s faces when Tei Shi followed up with a slowed-down version of Beyoncé’s “No Angel.” Feeling more comfortable, crowd members in the front row lip-synched Queen B’s lyrics passionately back at Tei Shi. Unhooking the microphone from the mic stand, the Argentina-born singer moved in closer to the crowd with a smirk.

“I’m Tei Shi,” she finally whispered. Bending down to take a sip from her 312 beer, she returned to center stage and finished her set. Her final song, “Bassically”, left the crowd in awe with its soaring crescendo and layered, powerhouse vocals.

Half an hour later, Years & Years excitedly strolled onto the stage. Drummer Dylan Bell stationed himself in the back, Emre Türkmen handled the synthesizers to the left, guitarist Mikey Goldsworthy took the right, and blonde-haired Olly Alexander playfully pranced to center stage.

Instantly, the mood darkened.

Red lights began flashing around the venue to match a rumbling bassline. Opening with “Foundation”, the lead track off the band’s debut album “Communion”, Alexander didn’t hesitate to dazzle the crowd with his vocal skills. He then lightened the crowd with “Take Shelter”, a funky reggae track that caused a small dance party in the front of the crowd.

Alexander’s high momentum continued to the next song “Desire”. This upbeat club track was clearly a fan favorite as the crowd shouted Alexander’s lyrics along with him. Glistening in sweat and glitter, Alexander paused instantly after the final note of the song.

“How are you guys doing tonight?” Alexander teasingly asked the crowd. “I just need a moment to catch my breath. Whew!”

Pulling up a stool to his keyboard, Alexander began to play “Memo”, a soft ballad about unfulfilled yearnings in relationships. The audience seemed to also need a break, as they pulled out their cell phones to record the singer’s softer side.

The party then continued as Alexander began to play some of the band’s biggest hits like “Shine” and “Real.” Feeding off the crowd’s strong energy, Alexander reached out to a girl in the front, grabbed her phone, and took a Snapchat selfie. He then bounced back on stage and climbed onto the clear barrier meant to protect the drummer. After this, he twirled over to keyboard to dance enthusiastically with Emre.

Once back center stage, Alexander closed with “King”, the band’s super-hit that reached number one on the UK singles chart. It was clear that Alexander had won the crowd over. After leaving the stage, exhausted fans trickled out of the venue – but not without stopping to buy a copy of “Communion” at the merch table first.