This week, The 1975 settled in to New York’s Bowery Ballroom for a two-night stay, and they are always welcome to return. Fans had marked Bowery as property of The 1975, tagging the walls and sidewalks outside the venue with the band’s logo. New Yorker’s rarely show up early for shows, but there was a solid crowd already waiting by the time doors opened. Opener, Linus Young, was engaging, but couldn’t appease the crowd’s craving for The 1975.
When the house lights finally went down, I felt like I was on the brink, about to fall into another realm. The lights framing George’s drumset flickered on like an old black and white tv, and their self-titled track began: “Go down/ Soft sound”. The soundtrack to the lives of four Manchester boys was about to start. Tension built until they finally emerged on stage and the crowd exploded from anticipation.
“Don’t call it a fight, when you know it’s a war”, Matty sang as their track, “The City”, kicked off the show. Their setlist was a perfect mélange of tracks from their debut album as well as ones from their four previous EP’s (Milk, So Far (It’s Alright), and Head.Cars.Bending). When “So Far (It’s Alright)” got going a few songs in, Matty pulled out a bottle of red wine, sipping straight from the bottle, and inspiring a wine and dance celebration. I will deign to say that was the classiest on-stage drinking I’ve ever seen. No beer for The 1975. We’re talking Cabernet.
Their live show revealed a wide range of sonic versatility. There were some times where you could just snap your fingers and groove about (and sip on red wine), and other times, like during “Head.Cars.Bending” or “Sex” where you could rock out. The show took a turn for the…flirty, shall we say…when they played “Heart Out”. The atmosphere got pretty steamy, perhaps due to the overwhelming female population in the crowd. Matty was glancing about, coyly winking at the ladies, and practically inviting us: “It’s just you and I, tonight./ Why don’t you figure my heart out?”. He looked like a snide little tease who knows just how to push the right buttons.
They transitioned into “Girls”, which was obviously dedicated to all the girls out there (aka 75% of the crowd). “Girls” is a song written from the male perspective about girls that are unconsolable and clingy, essentially concluding that “She can’t be what you need if she’s 17/ They’re just girls”. Ironically, the women in the crowd were into this song as if it were their credo. We’re just girls. To calm the crowd down, they played a slower song – a love song – “Robbers”. I got the chance to talk to the bassist, Ross, after the show, and he enlightened me as to the backstory of this song – a mix of Bonnie & Clyde and the film, True Romance.
Their sound was perfectly balanced. Matty’s vocals soared over the multiple guitar riffs, the slippery bass, and the shuffling drumbeats. I could not take my eyes off of Matty, and not for trying. He has such an alluring performance quality; it was as if he was reliving the story behind each song. At other times, he retreated into his own world. He’d be jamming out on guitar, taking in the scene, and would almost forget that he needed to sing the next verse.
“This is gonna be wicked, I promise”, Matty slurred in his Manchester accent before the opening riff to “Chocolate”. He encouraged a little sing-along with the crowd, all of us obstinately repeating, “We’re never gonna quit it!” during which he snagged someone’s iPhone and recorded the show from the stage before handing it back to the grateful fan.
The band was having so much fun that they didn’t even leave for the encore. They launched right into “Sex”, which was easily the climax of the show for me. The energy piqued, boosted by the fast-paced guitars, and I couldn’t help but jump around and join in the singing.
The history of The 1975, these songs that are each vignettes of important moments in their lives, culminated with “You”. We had one last dance before the fuzzy guitars bled out and the stage lights cut to oblivion. But the frame of lights around George’s drums still illuminated the scene. A reminder – the frame around the polaroid – that you saw and heard the story of their lives. So far.