The 1975 almost seem like they shouldn’t be as big or impressive as they are.
The Manchester four-piece cites cult favorites like Sigur Ros and Boards of Canada as key influences. They’re so stylistically diverse -- jumping from ‘80s pop to shoegaze to R&B to ambient -- it’s a wonder their solid, dedicated fan base can love the entirety of their catalog. And, honestly, singer and guitarist Matthew Healy looks like a walking cliché of a rock star in certain press photos – like a real-life version of the insufferable School of Rock character Spider.
But musically, the 1975 are far from clichéd, consistently pulling off the vast majority of styles they attempt. Their 2013 self-titled debut album propelled them to stardom, due in part to production by Mike Crossey, who helped Arctic Monkeys become one of the most promising bands of the mid 2000s and has since worked with Foals and the Gaslight Anthem. Then, last year, they avoided the sophomore slump with the stronger I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, resulting in more chart success and critical praise.
Within the next couple-three years, the band might become popular enough to fill the Target Center or the Xcel. But last night, they played a fairly crowded Roy Wilkins Auditorium, their second visit to the venue in less than a year, and the show seemed an inevitable success from the start, as the band walked on stage to deafening screams from fans, giving the room an ideal energy.
Healy, who has long since attained heartthrob status, is a natural-born frontman, a confident dancer with fancy footwork who throws in an occasional modified dab for good measure and intermittently straps on a guitar. The four official 1975 members were sometimes joined by two additional musicians, including a sax player. All the while, the light show was dynamic and varied, from purple and pink glows to one particularly mesmerizing effect creating the illusion that everything on stage was moving side to side.
Five songs in, after "A Change of Heart," Healy described the show as "a greatest hits set." That may seem a ridiculous description considering the band has only two full albums, but taken as a whole, the setlist justified it. The first proper song they performed was "Love Me," one of their tightest and catchiest, its groove defined by funk guitar and drumming heavy on the hi-hat. They saved two of their biggest songs, “Chocolate” and “The Sound,” for the encore, and the crowd, after patiently waiting for both, accordingly reacted with pure glee.
If play-through of either of their albums, and particularly I like it when you sleep..., unequivocally reveals the band’s sonic adventurousness, their live show makes that less obvious, due to the quick, seamless transitions between songs. But their versatility was still on display Wednesday night. They played “Loving Someone,” which is as far away from rock as the band get while still achieving a massive sound, splitting the difference between M83 and Jamie xx. On the other end of the spectrum was Healy’s solo performance of acoustic fan favorite “She Lays Down.” Those polar opposites, along with everything in between, confirmed that the four lads in the 1975 already have a broad appeal that will likely just keep broadening
The Crowd: Young, but not as young as I expected -- there were enough people in their mid 30s to mid 40s that it seems a sizable portion of the band’s fanbase likes them for the ‘80s sensibility. Also in the crowd: an Ed Sheeran doppelganger.
Overheard in the Crowd: “That sax, baby!” said a young gentleman next to me almost every time the saxophonist began doing his thing.
Random Notebook Dump: The band’s light show was consistently purple enough that it got me thinking about Prince. Which, in turn, got me thinking that while Healy calls Michael Jackson an influence, their sound actually seems more influenced by the Purple One than the King of Pop.
Critic’s Bias: I’m pretty much defenseless against Healy’s catchiest vocal hooks and the band’s compulsively danceable grooves.
A Change of Heart
She Lays Down
If I Believe You