Review: The 1975 at The PNE Forum
Their last album came out over a year ago and has already spawned seven singles. They’re also releasing new material already. But that isn’t stopping Manchester pop rock outfit The 1975 from extending their tour promoting sophomore album I Love It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It.
Having brought this larger-than-life tour to Vancouver’s Thunderbird Stadium last spring, these ragtag UK boys are proving their staying power with another leg, including this packed performance at The PNE Forum, featuring much of their newest album, old favourites, and a few surprises that were pulled out only for the Vancouver tour stop.
Early into the set, it was clear that The 1975 have stepped up their game significantly since their intimate, earnest days playing the bar circuit like when we saw them a few years back at VENUE. Now we have arena-ready anthems, a production that would make Kanye jealous, and a crowd ten times the size of what they were playing to just a couple years ago.
Production-wise, The 1975’s show is just as beautiful to watch as the band are to listen to. A series of cinematic, sweeping city scapes and dreamy colourful washes light up the quintet with an aesthetically pleasing palette that both fits in with the band’s chic visual brand and acts like a cohesive tie in with their tunes.
The first half of the set charted more in atmospheric and ambient territory, with somewhat abstract tunes like the extensive album title track “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It” and the spatial, minimalist-leaning “Loving Someone”. These songs were a delight to witness in a live setting, proving that a band’s musical prowess and sheer artistic talent is enough to keep a crowd interested.
The 1975’s tunes are so diverse, offering sexy saxophone solos (“Heart Out”) one moment, swaggering synthpop (“UGH!”) the next. This is a band that has found such a massive fan base because not only are they fun and catchy, they also offer moments of deeper connection for those willing to listen closely to the lyrics, also keeping social values in check. “Loving Someone” featured a massive rainbow light display that sparkled across the PNE Forum, a head nod to the group’s partnership with writer Dan Savage’s LGBTQ-friendly It Gets Better Project.
Enigmatic frontman/guitarist Matt Healy is a firecracker onstage, spinning around, dramatically posing, and freewheeling his way through the songs that include him on guitar. On the slower “A Change of Heart”, Healy slinks around the front of the stage close to his fans, swaying like an adult contemporary lounge singer. Mostly though, he’s ping-ponging around the stage, dancing his way through the set. But Healy also commands a venue this size with a sole voice and guitar, proven when he opened the show solo with an acoustic ballad “She Lays Down”.
Slower, more introspective moments like a surprise inclusion of single “Medicine” (which appears to be off set list for most of the tour) were actually the real set highlights, providing a beautiful contrast to the heavy hitter pop jams that filled the latter portion of the show. It’s easy to rile a crowd up when you have tunes as catchy and well produced as “Robbers” or “Chocolate”, but capturing a crowd’s attention during a heartfelt ballad is the true test for any musician.
Three quarters of the set into the show, The 1975 switched up the show to a full blast dance party, pulling out all of their upbeat, dance floor-ready bangers like the funk-infused “Girls”, and closed out the set with their monster single “The Sound”. Early set teaser “Love Me” capped the show off with Duran Duran vibes including bright pink lights that would not be out of place in an ’80s teen movie.
Near the end of the set, Healy told the crowd music, to him “…is about genuine connection. We’re striving for authenticity in a world where everything is quite disposable.” He then spoke about what it’s like to look out to a crowd of glowing iPhones, and asked people to be present during “Me”and enjoy the song with their eyes and ears.
“I need to validate all of my experiences by documenting them and sharing them with other people. This doesn’t feel like a very in the moment thing to do.” It was a valiant effort, but this crowd was hellbent on recording and Snapchatting every last moment. You almost can’t blame them– the band sounded so damn good, and the temptation to capture it for later reminiscing is all too great. Sorry your band is so damn good, Matt Healy.