“You see the remarkable thing about us … we just keep getting better, baby!” exclaimed Matty Healy, frontman of The 1975, before the familiar guitar lick of fan favorite “It’s Not Living” played throughout the Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Amphitheater last Saturday.
Formed in Wilmslow, Cheshire, The 1975 are an English rock band known for their introspective lyrics and dreamy, often bombastic production style. Sporting a minimalist aesthetic and Tumblr-ready colors, the band formed in 2002 and was a staple of the mid-2010s alternative wave with their hit song “Chocolate.” Solidifying themselves as a mainstay with critically acclaimed works such as “I like it when you sleep…” and “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships,” the band consists of lead vocalist Healy, guitarist Adam Hann, bassist Ross MacDonald, and drummer George Daniel. The 1975 is now promoting their latest record, Being Funny in a Foreign Language (BFIAFL), on their “At Their Very Best” tour.
I was curious to see if they lived up to the tour name. Spoiler: They most certainly do.
Starting the show off with the opening track of their aforementioned record, “The 1975 (BFIAFL),” The 1975 presents the beginning of their two-part show: “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” and “The 1975 at Their Very Best.” With them playing mainly songs from their latest album in the first half, then fan favorites and hits for the second portion, it feels as though we’re getting two concerts for the price of one.
“I’m gonna say a slur now. It’s okay, I’ve done my research,” Healy boldly proclaims before playing the Pinegrove-reminiscent track “Roadkill,” addressing one of the many controversies the big-mouthed lead singer has gotten himself into. With songs known to dissect his own flaws that show a substantial amount of self-reflection, the show is steeped in irony and self-reference, blurring the line between trying to perform his persona for our enjoyment because he knows it entertains us, and satirizing it. Also, Healy’s sheer amount of will and effort put into the show is clear. With the help of Tobias Rylander, he designed the stage set, which itself models the interior of a house with shutters, door frames, a spiral staircase, lamps, and retro televisions, complete with props such as books, flasks, guitar cases, and flowers.
Transitioning between the two parts, MacDonald turns off all the many lights. With just Healy, a guitar, and a single spotlight performing the acoustic ballad “Be My Mistake,” he abruptly cuts it short, saying he could finish it, but “the [audience] experience isn’t worth the song.” It’s funny, but also a bummer, as he’s knowingly stripping us of a beautiful rumination on desperation, destructive thoughts, and lust.
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“What do you do when everyone always leaves?” Healy asks during an introspective monologue, seemingly more to himself than the audience. The way the stage is set to give the illusion of peeking into a private home creates an intimate feeling, as though the band are letting you into not only their minds but their inner creative spaces. Because of this, when Healy lets us into these moments, it feels like you’re peeling back a curtain and catching him talking to himself. “You watch stuff, and you wank,” he says in typical Healy fashion. The audience laughs.
Continuing his act, Healy then puts the guitar down and, looking up at the light above him, he collapses. Crew dressed as doctors help him up and carry him to the sofa, where he begins to touch his chest, shirt unbuttoned. He then slides his hand down his body in an act of self-pleasure, and the crowd erupts into screams.
To the left, dozens of televisions light up. Healy walks up to them, then drops to the floor and proceeds to do push-ups. Then, he climbs through the screen of one, and disappears.
Returning in a suit and tie with the band, the band are onto part two, “The 1975 at Their Very Best.” “I like it when the audience is on top … no, not gonna say that,” Healy laughs, looking up at the tiered seating of the amphitheater. “This show’s getting too horned up; we all need to chill.”
Ironically, Healy proceeds to bring back a sexy, nostalgic moment from eight years ago for longtime fans during the calm-before-the-storm-moment in “Robbers.” He specifically asks if there is a queer male fan in the audience, takes him aside to ask for consent before bringing him onstage, then dances with the fan before bringing him in (twice!) for a passionate kiss.
From the set, to the props, to the song choices, to the tasteful amount of fan service, to Healy’s classic, endearingly charismatic idiosyncrasies, it’s one of, if not perhaps the only time a concert has truly left me in awe. To conclude the show, in true rascal fashion, he spits on the camera lens filming him from stage right. But, like a gentleman, he wipes the lens off with his shirt.
It’s very apt for Healy. “Being Funny” and “At His Very Best.”