Tears for Years: My night with Pops greatest three-piece

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Starstruck.

That is the only way to explain how I felt and behaved when I met Years & Years frontman and all-round genius Olly Alexander. If you know me outside of the Internet then you’ll know I’m no shrinking violet, and although there was one particular incident with Girls Aloud in 2006 that left me in such a state I was quite literally a shaking, verging-on-tears mute – so much so that Cheryl felt she had to hug me in fear I was close to having a heart attack – I’m generally pretty good when it comes to pop star encounters, which has certainly made things a lot easier for me when I’ve had to interview them.

It was roughly about a year ago that I was lucky enough to watch Lady Gaga’s artRAVE from the ARTPOP Zone, where after the show I sat in a room with 19 other likeminded Gaga fans and got to drink Vodka Cranberry with her. It was a surreal experience that lasted just under two hours, and is one that I had been mentally preparing myself for since I purchased the ticket. Yet for some reason, nothing could mentally prepare me for meeting Olly. I knew there was a good chance it was going to happen, but no amount of mental preparation was able to save me when it did actually happen.

I remember driving into the city on the night of the gig right after work; I sat in my car wracked with nerves. I have no idea whether I’ve ever been that nervous about anything before, so the whole thing was a kind of systematic overload to my senses, and I remember smoking about a hundred cigarettes in the hope that it would ease my pre-show anxiety. There’s a connection I’ve clearly made with Olly’s lyricism and his voice, a connection with Emre and Mikey’s music and production (particularly on a song like “Take Shelter” which showcases the group as a modern-day ABBA), the type of connection/relation that still makes me want to scream Roberta Flack/Lori Lieberman/Lauryn Hill lyrics at the stereo whenever I listen to Years & Years.  It’s that undisputed connection between the “window of an artist” and the “door of a fan” that can do things to your brain and body that virtually nothing else in the world could even come close to.

Fate seems to be a bit of a heavy topic to discuss on a pop music website but, when you hear the story, you’ll wonder too if this magical evening I had was something that was just meant to be. When tickets for the sold out Years & Years Melbourne gig went on sale I narrowly missed out (TWICE, FFS), and once “Communion” had been released I turned into a bit of a panicked and anxiety-riddled Stan, feverishly searching ebay, Gumtree and even Viagogo in the hope that I’d manage to get a ticket at the last minute.

About a week before the gig and as a last resort I posted a plea on Facebook, begging anybody to sell me a ticket to the show. In less than an hour, I was reconnected with the gorgeous Tierney, a very dear friend of mine I hadn’t seen in about eight years, who was not only going to the show, she’d been unable to convince anybody else to take the extra ticket she’d purchased. Then, out of nowhere and quite casually, Tierney sent me another message stating that she was mates with Mikey from and that there was a chance we could “say hello” to the band after the show. As if I wasn’t already grateful enough to her! I remember pinching myself and doing that bobble-head motion-thing that Edina does all the time on AbFab when she has no idea what the fuck is going on. For about two hours, this was me. Bobble-heading about and randomly saying ‘Fuck OFF!!” in sheer delight every half an hour when I’d think about what had just happened.

“Communion” is fast becoming one of my favourite albums recorded. My #1 album of all time – at least for now – is and has been Moloko’s “Statues” since its release in 2003. The final record released by the duo, it chronicled the romantic relationship and subsequent break-up between the two members; a concept album to end all concept albums. While I don’t really want to turn this piece into an album review (because, trust and believe, that essay is coming), I will say this: Possibly thanks to the ethos of creating songs you can dance and cry to, no album has affected me the way “Communion” has – other than Moloko’s “Statues”.

So with all of that Crazy in mind, I cannot stress to you how very important this show was to me even before we’d walked into the venue.

Tierney and I went out to dinner before the show and caught up on the last eight years. For the first time all day my anxiety and nerves had disappeared; the comfort of good food and amazing company had not been lost on me. We walked to the venue after stuffing our faces in China Town, only to find the queue for the show went all the way down Swanston Street. Not only that, Tierney and I were starting to get the feeling we were the oldest in line (something that was partially verified by the venue security guard when he took our licenses, saw that we were born in the 1980s, and then actually said to us “That’s epic” – as if we were both in our late nineties and well past our bedtime). The closer we got to walking into the venue, the harder my anxiety hit me. As Panama, the amazing local support act (co-starring former Operator Please member Tim Commandeur) played their set, I started to feel a little more like I was at a pop show rather than the waiting room of my therapist. But once the glistening sounds of “Foundation” introduced itself through the speakers at Max Watts and Emre, Mikey and Years’ drummer Dylan walked onto the stage, I fucking lost it. Once Olly walked out, I really fucking lost it, and began scream-shouting lyrics at the stage with the same kind of furious enthusiasm as I did when I went to Gaga’s artRAVE. In the words of Laganja Estranja, this really was My Moment, and nobody was going to take that away from me.

Dipping it low and making us all lose our minds, the opening bars of “Take Shelter” began pumping through right after the dramatic opening of “Foundation”, with Olly dancing up such a storm that you can hear me virtually explode at the very end of this video.

The King tbh ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ #YearsAndYears #OllyAlexander #Melbourne

A video posted by Adem with an E (@ademwithane) on

 

When it came to the songs I most wanted to hear, I got what I had mentally asked for. “Foundation”, “Take Shelter” “Memo”, “Ties”, “Border”, “Real”, “Shine” and their cover of Blu Cantrell’s “Breathe” all came at me as furiously as I sang the lyrics back at them, and although I really also wanted to hear “1977”, “Traps” or their very first single “I Wish I Knew”, what I got still managed to completely exceed my expectations and filled me with more life than I could have ever anticipated it would. And because Mikey was playing his hometown, the crowd went particularly wild when Olly mentioned his friends and family in the audience. The entire venue shook with an uproar of applause and cheers – with Mikey grinning ear to ear. Bloody magical.

Olly’s energy was contagious; by the end of the show I thought I was channeling 2005 and wanted nothing more than to go to a Rave. You could tell the guys were enjoying the show on stage as well, with Olly announcing to the crowd that this had easily been one of his favourite gigs on the tour. “I know all fucking bands say that, but I really mean it!” He was right. All bands do say that. But just because they say it, doesn’t necessarily mean the audience believes them. But in this instance, not only did the audience believe him, we knew he was sincere. The wide-eyed smile and slight laugh Olly would give off every time one (or all!) of us went fucking batshit crazy to their music only added to the magic of this night, verifying for us all just how much he himself had gotten out of the show.

The gig came to an end with a (literal) show-stopping performance of “King”, Olly jumped around the stage, and just as quickly as everything had begun, he was GONE. I turned to Tierney and was a little speechless – I couldn’t believe how energised I was, how much life I had coursing through my body after one of the most incredible live music experiences I’d ever had. Sweating like a pig and voice slowly fading away due to excessive screaming, I made my way with Tierney to the Mezzanine at the top of the venue, where she had been invited by Mikey to join the band for drinks. This window right here is where my nerves began to rocket-launch themselves through the roof of the venue.

We sat patiently and we waited. Mikey and Emre both came upstairs but Olly was nowhere to be seen. About 25 minutes in I honestly had thought all hope was gone and, surely, he had gone home, when Tierney started to say my name repeatedly, poking my arm. I looked at her and she pointed downstairs; there was Olly, walking towards the Mezzanine. I froze, went into a panic, froze again, and then stood, waiting somewhat patiently for the girls ahead of me who’d beaten me to the punch to chat to him first. The whole time I watched these girls getting pics with Olly, I remember trying to tell myself  “Adem, please be normal! Please be the hilarious jokester your friends and family love you for and not the nervous, Girls Aloud meeting wreck of 2006”, but by the time Olly had pointed at my T-shirt and walked over to me, all sense and reason went flying out of the window, and there I was, in a timewarp to 2006, waiting for Cheryl Cole to hug me so that I wouldn’t drop dead on the ground.

I think at this point I probably told Olly a hundred times how much I loved “Communion” and could feel my face turn bright red the more I tried to say to him. I asked him to sign my CD and if we could get a photo together. Due to very poor lighting, Olly grabbed me by the shoulder and moved me along with him into better light, which was honestly one of the most Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssss!!-worthy moments of my entire life. We took two photos, Olly smiled profusely at me and told me I was “very, very sweet”, and then I walked off, went and got both Mikey and Emre to sign my CD, with whom I then had the most cool, down to earth and normal conversations with (WHERE THE FUCK WAS THIS WHEN I WAS WITH OLLY?!), before getting ready to leave.

Just as Tierney and I were about to venture off, I saw Olly walk past me, so I softly grabbed his arm, thanked him for a life-affirming show and said goodnight. Olly smiled, thanked me again for coming to the show and wished me a goodnight. My moment!! My moment!!!!

Obviously by “partying with” I clearly meant “slowly dying of silence beside”, but that doesn’t really make for a good tweet now does it? I remember looking back at the tweet the next day and having no particular recollection of posting the image or its accompanying commentary. But my moment with Olly in the Mezzanine and my moment with the entire band on that dance floor are moments I won’t be forgetting any time soon, especially as that photo is probably the image I will end up having printed on my headstone.

The weekend after the show, I went on a Years & Years binge and pretty much watched every live performance and interview YouTube could throw my way. I came across one interview in particular where the group were asked if they’d ever been starstruck. Olly proceeded to tell a story about meeting Taylor Swift (who he likened to a large, tall and beautiful tree), and how she had left him a little starstruck when they met. I remember taking the biggest sigh of relief and thinking “Thank GOD.” It was so nice to hear that somebody who’d left me so starstruck was capable of the same feeling. I doubt Olly shook as much as I did when he met Taylor, but it was comforting to know that he more than likely understood where I was coming from nonetheless.

Years & Years are rumoured to return to the country over the Australian Summer period. If that’s the case, see you all front and center? I’ll be the one going bright red, in a Years & Years t-shirt, screaming lyrics at Olly. Won’t be hard to miss.

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