Channelling Phil Oakey and Whitney Houston...
The 1975 - Live At Heaven, London

Playing London’s famous Heaven nightclub, expectations are soaring for a band that counts the temptingly-named ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Sex’ among their hits. Appropriately “dressed in black from head to toe” as the lyrics to the former dictate, The 1975 emerge onto the violet-lit stage, fans crammed into every nook and cranny of the underground arches.

The four-piece may have trekked down from their home town of Manchester, but no gritty Britpop undertones are decipherable here, nor any evidence with which to brand them Smiths-wannabes. Instead, frontman Matt Healey sports a lop-sided hairstyle in a nod to The Human League’s Phil Oakey, implying an '80s synth-pop influence physically as well as sonically. Satisfying eyes before they’ve even started on the ears, the boys rocket into a show that clearly means a great deal to them.

There’s an alluring space within their songs, reflecting the band’s admiration for ambient music such as that delivered by Brian Eno and, more recently, Sigur Rós.

Unsurprisingly for a fresh young band, there are a fair few fillers spattered among their more popular offerings, but firecrackers ‘The City’ and ‘Girls’ explode into glittering highlights that rapidly establish this group as an outfit capable of living up to the social media-fuelled hype.

There’s a refreshing innocence behind the quartet’s fairly stereotypical indie-rock exterior (think leather jackets, skinny jeans and dark floppy hair). Healey thanks the crowd after every song without fail, acknowledging their debt to early supporters, without whom there would be no Muse support slots or upcoming Shepherd’s Bush Empire gigs. Despite this attractive humility, “pretentious” is sure to be a label stuck derisively to these lads by the envious masses trying and failing to rival them in the cool stakes.

The aforementioned ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Sex’ are as tasty and seductive as their titles suggest, while ‘You’ confidently echoes ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, its breakdown into “Do you wanna dance, do you wanna dance?” confirming Healey’s admission in a recent interview to an unashamed penchant for Whitney and Mariah-style power ballads. Not so edgy now, eh?

Love, drugs and the discovery element of growing up are notable themes in their lyrics while the mellow, melancholic infusion on certain tracks adds a darkly atmospheric tinge to happier, classic pop beats. With a full-length record set for release in September it remains to be seen whether the group can ride its current wave of adoration into further accolade and success.

Regardless of what the future may or may not hold, Healey showers the crowd with fully-requited affection as the performance draws to a close. Jumping on his guitar amp to snap a photo of his dedicated followers, their raucous reaction surely proves that the time has come for The 1975 to quit flirting with EPs and make that first album move. 

They’ve no need to fear rejection; we’re already seduced.

Words: Jess Denham

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