Over here for Big Day Out, the 1975 put on a sideshow to best showcase their '80s-style indie-pop
The past 12 months have seen English quartet the 1975 release a string of hit singles and a debut self-titled album to major critical acclaim as well as tour the world a few times over. However, in Australia, they have yet to reach the same heights. Perhaps over here, it has all just been the calm before the storm, because tonight they’re bringing their blend of melodic indie pop-rock to a sold out Northcote Social Club for their Big Day Out side show.
They kick off with single ‘The City’, with fan favourites hot on its heels, like ‘So Far (It’s Alright)’ – a synth-laden, keys-driven song a watery guitar that wanders around the room. The vocals are on point – frontman Matthew Healy sounds almost exactly as he does on record: hitting every low whisper and high-strung burst with equal accuracy.
Playing together in various incarnations since they were teens has turned the 1975 out as a band that communicates well – they’re tight and they know what they’re doing. Their stage presence isn’t show-offy and Healy’s hair flicks are more displays of abandonment than calculated entertainment.
Mid-way through the set, the anthemic ‘Heart Out’ really gets things going. The ’80s-style groove of the bass, courtesy of Ross MacDonald, has bodies jolting all over the place. On the opposite side of the stage, Adam Hann skilfully balances his duties as both guitarist and synth man. Multi-tasking seems to be a skill shared among band members; drummer George Daniel showcases impressive singing chops when backing up Healy’s vocals with his own deeper tones throughout the set. During ‘Heart Out’, Hann replaces the saxophone solo that appears on the album with one of equal measure played on his guitar. While we were hopeful for some woodwind goodness, the bending guitar solo is much better than any backing track would have been.
The quieter ‘Robbers’ may just be the evening’s best offering; sneaking up behind the ’80s-pop influenced single ‘Girls’, the song starts out as a whisper. Atmospheric guitars and echoey vocals abound, but by the end, ‘Robbers’ has grown into an all encompassing beast of a song that envelops the room with guitar nodding gently to U2 influences.
‘Chocolate’ balances a more serious look at life with clever, metaphorical lyrics and a riff that makes us want to move in all matter of directions. The vocals, quavering yet clear, incite an immense sing-along. The beginning of ‘Sex’ signals that the set is nearing its close. It’s a thunderous roar of instruments, with Healy’s overgrown mowhawk flying everywhere as the guitars toughen up for a rough tumble around the stage. A choice note to go out on, the drums come crashing down before everything bleeds out into static.
Before the band launches into the final song for the night, Healy thanks the “bunch of legends” standing before him. ‘You’ allows the 1975 to go out with a loud, banging amalgamation of all the synthesisers, catchy guitar riffs, rolling bass, crashing drums and of course, distinctive vocal and lyrical stylings that make up the band’s sound. Much in the style of ‘Robbers’, ‘You’ starts with gentle guitar delays that lead into a sparkling riff met with soft vocals. As the rhythm section and a second guitar are introduced, it builds into something much bigger. It presents a performance fit for an arena setting, complete with a chorus in the audience to add effect.
The hat that has remarkably remained on Daniel’s head the entire night comes flying off as he bashes away at the drums; Healy makes a leap that places him atop the kit as he continues to thrash away at his guitar. ‘You’ wraps everything up, proving that given the opportunity the 1975 could easily fill a larger venue here in Melbourne. However, the intimate setting of the Northcote Social Club has felt homely and personal; it’s as though they’ve been playing to a party of friends rather than a crowd of strangers. With a swift thank you and a few high-fives, the 1975 leave us swaying and satisfied, but always ready for and wanting more.