The 1975’s first sold out show at Stage AE began like both of their albums — with the band’s swelling, eponymous track and de facto theme song. But this time, it was abruptly interrupted for an even more familiar sound: the opening blares of the Star Wars
Before The 1975 fired off the indelible one-two of “Love Me” and “UGH!,” a modified version of The Force Awakens
’ opening crawl was projected on the screen, subbing in Matty Healy for lost Jedi Luke Skywalker and guitarist Adam Hann for Han Solo. When the band finally emerged in costume as Han(n) Solo, a wookiee (bassist Ross MacDonald), and an X-wing pilot (drummer George Daniel), Healy wasn’t a Jedi, but a fully cloaked and masked Kylo Ren.
Of course Matty Healy was Kylo Ren
, you’re probably thinking. Yeah, it’s an on-the-nose costume choice — the bad-boy rocker you crush on easily, but dread bringing home to mom and dad would
come out as the galaxy’s most dangerous problem child. And yet, Healy and Kylo bear more similarities than their misanthropic edge. Much like Vader’s spiritual successor, Healy is deliberately reverent to his forbearers, but in glam rock, dance, and R&B instead of intergalactic terror.
I’d never seen The 1975 before last night, but would comfortably wager that Kylo’s robes were the most clothing Healy has ever worn onstage. Despite some diminished mobility, the costumes didn’t hinder the experience to be less than an ideal 1975 show. If anything, the unpredictability of Healy pulling out a lightsaber during songs, seeing stormtroopers mock-battle in the background or Princess Leia (saxophonist John Waugh) rip through solos made for a looser, more amusing show. Healy even scaled back his commentary about our National Nightmare: “this is normally the part of the show where I say ‘fuck Donald Trump.’ But tonight’s all about Star Wars
This was a Halloween party with the glossiest house band imaginable. Not that it took much, but Healy and the gang fully solidified their record I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It
(say that 10 times) as the best M83 album of the year. It’s an ambitious and indulgent work, whose chameleonic styles almost made more sense alongside fan favorites from the band’s self-titled record. The encore alone provided the elastic transition from soul balladry (“If I Believe You”) to their straight-ahead midtempo standard (“Chocolate”), which gave way to one of the best dance pop tracks in recent memory (“The Sound”).
It’s still sort of unbelievable to see a band that anonymously burst on the scene with an anthemic, borderline emo track in “Sex” reach the level of arena-grade synth rock. The 1975 just has so much in its toolkit, and you can’t fault Healy for wanting to play with it all on one record, as he does on I Like It When You Sleep.
The band certainly didn’t tone anything down for the live show, including just about every ambient interlude from the last record.
And how can you blame them? When your most adventurous album with the most unconventional song structures to date debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 ahead of fucking Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, it sure feels like a mandate to artistically go for whatever you want. In interviews, Healy seems to understand that he owes the freedom to a devout, intelligent, and overwhelmingly female fanbase. A 1975 show can sound like a One Direction concert, like when Healy actually whipped out a cigarette during “A Change of Heart” to rapturous screams. But I swear, some of those same people near me were reacting with similar enthusiasm when “Please Be Naked” began (that’s an ambient interlude off I Like It When You Sleep
— nothing for the radio). It’s not hard to see why he’d trust them to follow along wherever his creative impulses might lead.