With all the performance value of Joe Cocker at Woodstock, Matthew Healy of the 1975 stumble-danced his way into the roar of the sold out crowd at the Vogue Theatre on April 26. He slithered across the stage gripping an open bottle of red, dressed in an open leather bomber, giving all a glimpse of his sweat-drenched, tattooed chest. The air was taut with party pop-rock anticipation. “The City” erupted, and my undying faith in hard-partying bands was reinforced as the 1975’s impeccable sound was unscathed by whatever indulgent pre-show substances they had consumed.
The band’s signature white-lit rectangle hung on the backdrop of the stage while an incredibly stimulating white light slow-danced around it. Seems the lamps and strobes were set up in the most hypnotic way possible. The charm and simplicity of the exclusive black and white lighting was tactical and set to be a new edge on the classic rock look of bands like the Stones.
By the second song, Healy shed the leather, leaving himself in a hardly visible, sweat drenched, open, patterned shirt. Healy made some synth pop rock-and-roll love to his guitar with his black, shiny, wet curls sticking to his forehead, singing on pitch, not missing a note. His expressionless band mates maintained their role blessing our ears with harmonies, precision, and sheer talent. The crowd was present, sold, and saturated in the show of it all.
Healy welcomed the crowd in his thick Manchester accent, dripping in charm and swooning the birds to their knees. Making sure that love and romance facilitated the actions on the dance floor, he said, “If someone falls over, pick them up… Don’t kick, just fucking kiss each other.” In the spirit of showmanship he pulled out a giant Canadian flag, pushing the screaming to new heights as “So Far (It’s Alright)” began. Funny, but the flag wasn’t the only prop of the night: During “Pressure”, a bra made its way to the stage. Fitting.
For a band that has struggled with labels constantly criticizing their lack of identity, the 1975 certainly seem to have a distinct show, style, and sound locked in tight. When I listen to their record, I hear a singular sound – not the most lyrically rooted, but certainly a complete thought. They did fumble and stumble for just shy of a decade before this record, but the product is good, and their stage performance carries enough weight to yield another record.
The intro to “Heart Out” was met with the beautiful whine of a soulful jazz saxophone. The player was introduced as a new addition to the band, and as the sax lapped the shores of our ears, I couldn’t help wonder if any of the wee kittens in the house understood what they were absorbing here. We’re in the feel-good, lesson-learned, curtain-closing scene with Molly Ringwald, and we’ve fallen in love for the first time. We’re tasting the passion and heat of the 80s/90s, the sound, the feeling, and the takeover.
“Me” slowed the pace to a heartbreaking, bass-y, and now sax-soulful depth. During the song, Healy took a seat on a speaker and swept the crowd’s faces with a prolonged stare. This tune bled into “Fallingforyou”, throughout which strobe lights pulsed, maintaining the ballad’s intense heart-wretch. With the wine bottle in his hand, his accusing and alluring dancing had me broken hearted and falling in love at the same time.
With all the frontman appeal of an old style crooning pop-rocker, Healy gulped wine throughout the show and reminded us that partying need not heed limits. A musical interlude even allowed him to enjoy a not-so-offstage dart. The party lives on. He butted out and transitioned right into “Girls”, provoking fans to shout the lyrics and gyrate, taking us to the show’s peak and finishing the set.
The encore produced a predictable three songs: “Robbers”, a heartfelt ballad; “Chocolate“, a bloody necessity; and the mildly controversial “Sex”, which introduced red lights to the stringent black and white ambiance. I’m not sure if it was his blood-alcohol level, drugs, or acting, but the combination of it all made for something of an experience. This was a technically seamless show – effects, vocals, the whole package, with ragged and party-perfect Healy trotting through it all. And if you missed out, “We’re the 1975 coming out of Manchester – see you later.”