Pop. That's a word that seems to inadvertently water down the expected quality of music because it implies its entrance into the mainstream. I'm here to say, wild and poignant pop still exists, and the 1975 personifies it. These talented musicians from Wilmslow, Cheshire, England have accrued a cult fanbase akin to the obsession girls have with One Direction or even the Beatles. That is, if the Beatles sang about depression, suicide and sleeping with girls who have boyfriends.
Lead singer and guitarist Matty Healy is as sexual in person as he is in theory. He dances like a coked-out Robert Smith, hair blowing in the wind. Healy represents the raunchiest version of pop music, doing to pop music what the Weeknd did to radio R&B: Made it somehow more alternative, inappropriate, sexualized while staying true to its original sound.
The openers were both London-born, The Japanese House and Wolf Alice, and also happened to be female-fronted. The Japanese House lead singer Amber Bain said, "I've played a lot of venues in my life, but this is the coolest." Both bands rocked hard and seemed to warm the crowd up and lead in with heavy ballads and high energy.
"This is fucking mental," Healy says as he finally emerged to screams. The craziest devotion was heavily congregated in the front five rows with Tumblr-generation young women who are beyond obsessed with this lead singer and his romantic, emotive and unashamed expression of himself that has taken form in The 1975's music. Healy had a fresh perm in tow, as he bopped and glided around the stage using signature dance moves, curls bouncing back and forth. He moves like a mix between a heartbroken Gumby and a skinny-jean wearing Keith Richards from back in the day.
The 1975 began its nearly two-hour-long set with "Sound," followed by an eclectic mix of old and new material spanning albums Sex, The 1975, Music for Cars, IV, and its newest album that dropped just this year, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It. The set continued with a beautiful rendition of "Heart Out," which came from their 2013 self-titled album, then we tripped manically into "So Far (It's Alright)."
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This is a band in the prime of its career. Each member can back up the talent of Healy and yet stand on his own merits. Yet Healy was the spokesman of the group, addressing the crowd from a stunning stage set. "This is the coolest fucking thing I've ever seen in my life," Healy said. "You don't know how much it means to be able to play songs like this in a place like this." He led the musicians into "A Change of Heart," then red and blue lights glowed for one of the danciest moments of the night with "She's So American."
The 1975 proved that it's possible to write poignant pop in 2016. Healy opened up to the crowd, saying, "We were so nervous when we started, we fucked the beginning of the show up, do you realize that?" No one had, but all was forgiven once seizure-inducing flashes of purple light flashed on stage. "I'm having a really really good time tonight. I think I've gone mad," Healy said as he broke into "The Ballad of Me and My Brain."
Healy sang his heart out, and every song that ended inspired larger screams from the crowd. His fan following isn't news to him, though. "We don't even have loads of songs on the radio or anything. We are a fan-based band. For me, and for all of us, I just really want us to connect with each other in this moment. Not you before, not you later, not you on the Internet, but you right now." Healy begged the audience to put their phones away for a deliciously synthed-out version of "Me." "The memory of the next five minutes will be much more potent than any video." The crowd happily obliged. Healy then joked about the marijuana smell billowing towards the stage, saying, "The ironic thing is you can barely breathe down here."
The 1975 played "Fallingforyou," followed by "Robbers." An extremely high-energy encore included songs "If I Believe You," "Chocolate" and current radio hit "The Sound," before ending with the fan favorite, an orgasmic version of "Sex." It was near-miraculous to see the front rows of girls in tears and singing along to every word. If you ever doubted the meaningful impact of pop music, this show could make you a believer.