Nursing a bottle of red wine, the 1975 frontman Matthew Healy spilled onto the stage of the Fillmore in San Francisco on Friday night. With his gauzy black shirt opened to reveal a pale, tattooed torso, Healy’s look and swaying persona lucidly referenced those rock gods of past eras — but the sounds on stage were distinctly fresh.
The English band — made up of Healy on vocals and guitar, Adam Hann on guitar, George Daniel on drums and Ross MacDonald on bass — is known for its black-and-white marketing aesthetic and stylistically ambiguous music. The 1975 broke out as one of the biggest success stories of 2013, with its four EPs generating enough buzz to launch a self-titled debut album to number one on the UK charts. Although its rise to fame may seem meteoric, the band was together for 10 years before releasing its first album.
The time put into the album certainly shows, not only through the maturity of their synthy, eerie indie-pop tracks, but also through their carefully crafted performance. After openers Sir Sly and Bad Suns, the band lead into its set with “The City,” off The 1975. They got the crowd singing along right from the start with the track’s repetitive cry of “Yeah, if you wanna find love, then you know where the city is.” To play up the music’s heavy 1980s influences, a live saxophonist joined the band on stage for songs such as “Heart Out.” Watching from the “Dad Zone” — the perimeter of parent chaperones lining the crows at any show that draws a young audience — it was clear the 1975’s appeal translated to all ages. “These kids sure have something,” one father shared.
And they certainly do. From jaunty pop tunes like “Girls” to ambient storytelling on “Menswear,” the 1975’s hodgepodge of styles and influences is the perfect model of success in the postgenre era. The highlight of Friday night’s performance was the moment when the crowd joined Healy on an unexpectedly triumphant cry of “Now everybody’s dead!” during “Robbers.”
Toward the end of the set, Healy gave thanks to the members of the crowd for all their support and admitted to being nervous. It was only a year ago, he said, that the band could barely get 50 people in a room in their hometown of Manchester, England. If the rousing encore of “Chocolate” and “Sex” was any indication, those days of small crowds and fighting for attention are over.