The 1975, Wolf Alice, The Japanese House
The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
May 7, 2K16
It’s not hard to understand, when you really think about it, why some people dislike The 1975.
It’s definitely easy to see how someone could listen to their music, especially their singles, and be dismissive of them. “Chocolate” is about as toothless a song about carrying around guns as can be, and “Love Me” displays most of the worst tendencies of ‘80s pop music. If you’re not looking for the musical equivalent of neon pink and blue, The 1975 aren’t doing much for you.
And yeah, Matt Healy does kind of come off like the type of guy who some people might want to punch in the mouth. Whether it’s his face or his hair or his body language or his outfits, he has the kind of abrasiveness for some that is hard to explain other than to say, “Yeah, that’s a guy who looks like he would break up with you and then get mad when you start sleeping with somebody else.” Sleezy, creepy, douchey — listen, I’m not here to put words in anyone’s mouth; I’m just saying I understand.
But I also disagree. I won’t argue their or his merits as songwriters or their general likability because they’ve got plenty of Twitter fans to do that for me, but what I will say is that The 1975 put on a fantastic show and Matt Healy is one of the — no genre qualifiers — best front men in music.
Their show isn’t big on spectacle, and it’s not over the top or overdone; it’s simple and elegant and geared toward maximum emotional resonance, if you’re willing to ride the wavelength they're transmitting. It ebbs and flows from slow reflections to upbeat dance party, from emotional rockers to synthetic melodrama.
And at the center of it all is Healy, who knows exactly how to control the growing crowds he’s performing in front of. He knows the value of a quick wave and a smile, of knowing when to ask the fans to put their cellphones away and of holding back on encouraging too much crowd participation; by dragging out that particular moment, he manages to build a sense of catharsis rare in many a modern concert.
The thing about The 1975 is that after seeing them and the crowd that showed up to see them, I have no clue who their contemporaries are supposed to be. They should probably be lumped in with the Coldplays and Imagine Dragons of the world, but Saturday night felt very much like a dry run for what the 5 Seconds of Summer show later in the year will be like, albeit a touch more “rebellious.”
When was the last time you saw a singer, especially one with a fanbase that skews toward teens and young adults, smoking onstage? Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t imagine any of the One Direction lads lighting up onstage. And true, Healy did seem to use it as more of a prop than anything else, but it was still a weird sight to see. Add in the “Fuck That, Get Money” shirts they were selling and you’ve got a group that, at the very least, is trying to be edgy.
It’s not, because we’re still talking about a big pop show up in The Woodlands, but I get what they’re going for and I get why it appeals to a certain audience. I guarantee you someone, somewhere, has pointed out that they’re grown up now because they listen to real music like The 1975.
And more power to them, because this was the show I’ve been wishing for every time I’ve sat through a big boy band spectacle. I wish 5 Seconds of Summer had a song as good as “The Sound.” Hell, had I not seen the best Tool shows in a decade earlier this year, I might be telling you this was the best show I’ve seen this year. It had everything I look for in a concert: great songs performed well, some killer opening acts, a stage show that knocked my socks off more than once, and a ringmaster who controlled the crowd almost flawlessly.
But yes, I totally get why you might hate them, too.
So, How Were the Openers? I’m not sure how Wolf Alice landed this opening gig because their presence on the bill doesn’t make a whole lot of sense; they’re doing something very different from the other two bands that played. I’m not complaining, mind you, because Wolf Alice are incredible live, and they played about as perfect a set as they could in this environment; their time onstage flew by and left those of us into their sound wanting more. The Japanese House also impressed, making translating the dense sound of her EPs seem impossibly easy. Still, to see her outdoors while the sun set seemed a little odd; The Japanese House would kill in the dark upstairs at Fitz.
Personal Bias: That I like The 1975 should not come as much of a surprise, given that the points of reference I see for them in other music journalism spaces are Jimmy Eat World — my favorite band — and M83 — “Midnight City” is one of my favorite songs.
The Crowd: I stand at about 5’5” on days when I remember to stand up straight. A general rule of thumb for me when it comes to answering the question “Is [x] a boy band?” is “Am I taller than most of the crowd?” I felt pretty tall at times Saturday.
Overheard in the Crowd: No quotes, but I did notice more than a few people ugly-crying from happiness.
Random Notebook Dump: I’m glad that the headliners took a moment to celebrate the work of their lighting guy; if I were writing this for myself and not for mass consumption, this post would be 800 words of lighting design and stagecraft talk. That said, I can’t go without mentioning how much the lighting during “Chocolate” reminded me of James Turrell’s The Light Inside.
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