There is something compellingly enigmatic about the way The 1975’s front-man Matty Healy captivates an audience with his eccentric style and electrifying vocals. Rocking a blue boiler-suit, red Converse, and hair slicked back, Healy is more hipster greaser than pop star. But his enthusiasm shows that he knows his way around a stage, and he plays the role well. The Manchester native, backed by bassist Ross MacDonald, drummer George Daniel, and guitarist Adam Hann, is pushing music to brave new heights.
Glasgow’s SSE Hydro hosted the indie pop band on Saturday night, a stop on the European leg of their tour following the release of their third album – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships – last November. Manila-based artist No Rome and fellow Manchester indie band Pale Waves opened the show. With an arena packed with a fanbase of teens and twenty-somethings singing along to every word, it’s easy to see how The 1975 has become one of the most popular bands in the UK.
Their lyrics are the stuff Tumblr posts are made of. “Don’t fall in love with the moment and think you’re in love with the girl,” Healy sings during She’s American. And while it’s hard to put a singular label on The 1975’s sound – at times it’s 1980s synth pop, at others it’s indie rock with a touch of funk – perhaps it’s their genre fluidity that makes their music so unparalleled in the pop landscape today.
The stage design is a prismatic feast for the senses as geometric shapes and screens recreate a neon aesthetic that has become synonymous with the band’s image. A treadmill stretches the length of the stage, which Healy uses to recreate the music video for Sincerity is Scary, strolling against a backdrop of a New York street. The band is joined by identical dancers The Jaiy Twins, who add to the refreshing and symmetric energy of the stage.
The band performed a variety of tracks off their latest record, from dance singles like Give Yourself a Try and TooTimeTooTimeTooTime to the melodramatic How to Draw / Petrichor. Somewhere early in the set Healy pauses to welcome the audience to the show, only to stress that he won’t spoil things with anymore talk. The focus is, as it always has been, the music.
At the height of their career, The 1975 takes an opportunity to turn art into societal testimony and fame into a platform. Their latest album makes a strong statement with poignant lyrics that present a harsh reality – and the tour doesn’t miss a beat, taking several moments to contemplate the effects of technology and on social issues more relevant in 2019 than ever. In I Love America and America Loves Me, the band touches on gun control. “Kids don’t want rifles, they wants Supreme.” The first single off their latest album, Love It If We Made It, opens their encore set. Pointed lines address matters like the systematic incarceration of black men, fake news and free speech, politics, refugees and immigration, and the overwhelming role that technology plays in an era of digital fame. “Saying controversial things for the hell of it,” Healy sings as visuals of war and smart phones flash across the screen. “Modernity has failed us.”
It’s a bold new direction for a band that has grown up a lot since their debut album. Still, their early work holds a place in the audience’s hearts, and the show climaxes with a selection of their most celebrated works. The crowd belts along to dance hits like Girls, Chocolate, Somebody Else and Sex. “This song is for you,” Healy notes in a rare intimate moment before transitioning into their Bonnie-and-Clyde love ballad Robbers. “It’s always been for you.”
There is an electric dissonance in the performance. One moment Healy gives new meaning to dancing like no one is watching as the band brings the arena to life with a fresh beat and flashing lights. In the next, he possesses a raw vulnerability refreshing in a rising star. During the encore, the band leaves the stage and Healy croons an acoustic Be My Mistake under a single centre-stage spotlight, his eyes glistening on the broad screens as if on the verge of tears. One forgets they’re in an arena and not a more intimate venue, if only for a moment.
As the band closes the show with a rendition of their hit The Sound that makes the audience go wild, past negative critiques of their music flash across the backdrop of the stage like a middle finger to an industry that’s been particularly judgemental of pop bands crooning “emo” verses. The house was full after all, and as fans shook the arena floor jumping to a chart-topping chorus, they proved that The 1975 has earned it’s spot at the top.
For those who missed The 1975 this time around, don’t worry – the band were recently confirmed as one of the headliners at the Glasgow Summer Sessions this coming August, alongside The Foo Fighters and The Cure.
By Jordan Swope (Blog: Girl Meets World)
Photos: Jordan Curtis Hughes (Instagram: @jordhughesphoto)