For their third run-in with Utah audiences, the bombastic and ever ballooning indie pop foursome The 1975 graced the UCCU Events Center making for a wonderfully unusual Monday evening. The smallish arena feel of this triplicate tour date befit the equally demi-extravagant live production of one of smart pop’s most successful dark horses. Slightly shoddy stadium seats aside, the space was ample for Dirty Hit’s headliners and supporting artists No Rome and Pale Waves, all members of the British indie-label family.
Our evening began ushered by the band’s ever tightening security detail to a colorful soundcheck session with the Manchurian lads and their veteran stage cohorts Jamie Squire on keys and John Waugh on saxophone. Even in pre-gig preparatory mode, Matthew Healy, Adam Hann, George Daniel and Ross McDonald bring the polish and professionalism of the better part of two decades as bandmates.
The boys were lit by a colorful, deco stage design, once again furnished via the imagination of Tobias Rylander, who brought the glowing rectangle to new life during the band’s sophomore album tour. To our delight, they obliged us with a request for a favorite from their debut-album era, once more manifesting their ongoing indie attitude even as they burgeon into a pop powerhouse with genuine tenure. It’s apparent, though, that The 1975 are swiftly exiting smaller market boundaries and necessarily having to operate as a taut machine since their first Utah visit to cramped Kilby Court in October 2016. The fates have been kind to this band, and the obligatory aches of growth have been suffered along their expanding path.
No Rome warmed up the youthful and stylish crowd with his sophisticated synth r&b, a proper aperitif for the evening ahead. Pale Waves served second opener style to the local crowd, having been in our neck of the woods as a supporting and headlining act numerous times. Clearly the Utah audience knows this band well by now, as evidenced by the roar of voices singing along to nearly every song. Having seen this young brit-pop act in their prior iterations, their development over the past two years, in particular, has been a pleasure to witness. Unfortunately we only got four songs from this act, who easily could’ve kept the audience for a full set.
The 1975 burst forward with their now standard opening title track, a grandiose ode to youthful sexual endeavors had in automotive backseats. The evenings setlist was a pleasant embarrassment of surprises via several older hits and the weird, wonderful and winsome array from their current third album. Slight yet clever adjustments to the classic catalog helped breathe a fresh life into favorites from the early era. A conveyor belt across front stage and a set of knit rabbit ears made the jazzy track “Sincerity Is Scary,” a whimsical nod to the equally fun music video. The tightness of the band’s stage persona is increasing, with Healy appearing healthier and heartier than in previous years via his ostensibly ongoing recovery and rebound into an elevated level of wellbeing.
A new sense of celebration exists in The 1975’s live performance, as though the band intends to fashion a world for its audience and invite them gleefully into it. At times, Healy (the apparent impetus of said imaginary orbit) paused to absorb his own artistry with a childlike awe. The addition of identical twin backup dancers added to the playful yet contemplative rabbit hole of their current persona.
The boys from Manchester brought their original rock skills in the second half of the set, reminding the audience of their post punk and guitar heavy origin story.
The anthemic “Love It If We Made It” opened the encore, with Healy roaring into the mic about the ills of modernity. The audience absorbed the energy with fists held high and righteous bliss, pressing on through the waning night with their boys. Old radio hit “Chocolate” sat second to last, with now standard closing track “The Sound,” wherein Healy entreats the audience to end the evening with a “fucking jump.” Fortunately the crowd availed, and the rickety risers held as a sea of thrilled bodies bounced in near stunning unison.
Although no longer an underground, occult pop secret, The 1975 remain complex, curious and downright cool well into their rising international fame. Although they may fill larger and larger arenas over the coming years, this band will always have heart and sincerity, a set of traits worthy to follow for their sonic lifespan. -Paige Zuckerman