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Everything about this show gets high marks except for Matt Healy's hat.
Everything about this show gets high marks except for Matt Healy's hat.
Photo by Cory Garcia

The 1975 Know What They're Doing, Even If We Don't

The 1975, Pale Waves, No Rome
Smart Financial Centre
May 4, 2K19

Was this a parody of a pop show, or am I just hoping for more from a band who I think the world of?

There is no question to me that when it comes to the performative aspects of being the frontperson for a band, Matt Healy is in the upper echelon of modern singers. I think of the moment in the show when Healy sings “fallingforyou” and suddenly he's a boy on stage singing about the type of love you only feel when you're a teenager and everything seems impossibly important. It happens so seamlessly that it would be chilling if it wasn't so enchanting.

There's a never a moment on stage when Healy doesn't feel like he knows exactly what he's doing or exactly how to play to the crowds that come to see him, but that's what makes the show so perplexing. He is, in the moment, giving the crowd exactly what they want; he moves his body, uses his voice, and engages with the crowd to receive maximum adulation. They respond with all the yelling and chest clutching and arm waving you'd expect at a tent revival. If you watched a video of the crowd responding to the show, it would look like the crowd at every pop show around right now.

But there's something that tugs at the back of my mind that makes me feel like he's taking the piss out of the pop star mystique. Part of it is the overt silliness of some of his dancing on stage, in particular on big let's-swing-for-the-fences-with-a-big-pop-number like “It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)” and “Chocolate.” I like Stop Making Sense as much as the next guy, but even David Byrne would perhaps think Healy is too over the top. It's performative to the point of drawing attention to itself, which feels like the point.

Then there's “Love It If We Made It,” with it's choreographed dancing colliding with video of war machines, the Westboro Baptist Church, and the death of Eric Garner. Lyrically, it's a millennial anthem that breaks down the uncomfortable time we live in, but there's something utterly bizarre about watching this particular presentation with all this worldly evil and then the crowd roaring in approval. It feels like a clever critique, but my mind goes back and forth on whether it's too clever or not clever enough.

There are times when I'm quite certain that The 1975 are the best band on the planet, to the point that I don't even know who else would be in the conversation. Their songwriting is on another level and they, at the very least, put on shows that are not only top notch in terms of musical performance but are a feast for the eyes, even when they're at their ugliest; whether it's simple shapes in bright neon or turning the stage into a bleak black and white, their lighting is masterful.

Even if the show isn't a parody, I like that there's just enough meat on the bone to give me something intellectual to grapple with in addition to pulling at the heartstrings. Parody or not, The 1975 remain damn good at what they do, even if I'm not exactly sure what it is they're doing.

So, How Were the Openers?: I love Pale Waves unreservedly, so take all of the following with a grain of salt. They made the most of a minimal production and sounded really great, feeling like a much bigger band than they are at the present. Their songs are a bit on the fluff side still, but to me they have more potential than 95 percent of the opening acts I see, and I'm fascinated to see what they do next. No Rome was fine, but I do wish The Japanese House was on this tour instead.

Personal Bias: “It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)” was my favorite song of 2018, but I'll confess that as much as I like their pop stuff, I do tend to feel their older rock stuff just a tiny bit more, if only because it's basically a sexier version of what Jimmy Eat World does.

The Crowd: Not very respectful of personal space. Lots of strangers bumping into strangers in the heat of the moment. A least one phone sent flying.

Overheard in the Crowd: “I can die now. I'm content,” said a young lady behind me after the band played “Somebody Else.” Take that as a secondary review.

Random Notebook Dump: Listen, I get that there's a ton of money to be made in charging for parking, but I feel like people parking in the lot on the far side of the ditch should get some sort of discount due to the distance to the venue, the particulars of how one has to approach the venue, and the difficulty of getting out of said parking lot after the show. Like, those people should only have to pay $8.

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