Live Review: The 1975 & Pale Waves | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Live Review: The 1975 & Pale Waves

Dirty Hit signees The 1975 and Pale Waves bring their beautifully unique take on pop to Arena Birmingham, Nina Avitabile reviews

Few bands command such a presence in the current pop zeitgeist than that of The 1975. Like them or loathe them (with them often referring directly to their illustrious front man Matty), we can all agree that The 1975 are one of the most exciting and dynamic bands of today. What now constitutes as ‘pop’ is mostly bereft of even the slightest amount of risk-taking. Enter a band with what seems to be limitless ambition, one that is planning to release another album barely three months after releasing a critically acclaimed third record - one that made Pitchfork’s Best New Music and was lauded by NME as a ‘masterpiece’, one that seems unafraid to experiment, at least partially, with risk-taking.

They are not only an endlessly exciting and engaging live act with an enigmatic frontman, but one that is at the height of their powers
Lavishly soaked in 80s pastiche, the band have been steadily climbing in popularity since there breakout hit, ‘Chocolate’, and, after relentlessly touring and building a cult-like fan base, have recently embarked on a deserving stadium tour, no small accomplishment for a four-man band from Manchester. After comprehending the success and influence of one of the countries biggest bands, the natural arising question is: are they any good? In particular, are they any good live? The simple answer, as observed on January 23rd at the Birmingham Arena, is they are not only an endlessly exciting and engaging live act with an enigmatic front man, but one that is at the height of their powers.

To reinforce this answer, we must first begin, as mentioned, with the bands charismatic front man Matty Healy. On the 23rd, it was refreshing and endearing to experience pop music that is so immediate and important to the thousands of young starstruck fans. The band succeeded in closing the gap between fan and artist, playing songs that, if appealing to you, will connect with every word. This can, at times, cause more than a little cringing in the obviously parent-heavy adult portion of the audience, but this was overcome by the sheer entertainment on offer here. For all the grandiose statements this band really know how to write a chorus, and by the end it was hard to imagine even the most conservative parents not tapping their feet to 'The Sound'.

It was hard not to feel entertained by a band that, for better or worse, expend so much energy crafting an experience that, for those who connect with it, can be transcendental
The band played a balanced selection of tracks from all three of their studio albums, plus some more atmospheric and electronic cuts from there early EPs, including the fan-favourite ‘fallingforyou’ with its skeletal rhythm and romantic declarations. Other highlights included the INXS indebted ‘Love Me’, although perhaps the only major misfire of the night followed soon after, the name ‘Matty’ suddenly appearing across the multiple screens that framed the stage. In a display of pure self-indulgence, this felt more than a little tasteless and likely reflected the levels of Matty’s self-importance.

Overall the band do a good job of captivating the audience and succeeded in delivering interesting pop singles that consider modern life in the age of the internet. In particular, the familiar themes of millennial angst were further explored in 'I Like America and America Likes Me' (named after an interesting piece of performance art by Joseph Beuys). The song contains various layers of auto tune, and Matty can be heard imploring the aforementioned generation (in which they have such a strong following) to ‘Say Something’, and declaring that ‘Kids don’t want guns, they want Supreme.’ It is an interesting message that sits within the instrumental, and is a great representation of the allure of the band as a whole. That being the arresting, 80s-referencing rhythms, melodies, gorgeous production and crucially, intelligent lyrics that say something. This is important especially because there isn’t any other band on there scale doing this at the moment. When leaving the gig, it was hard not to feel entertained and indeed loved by a band that, for better or worse, expend so much energy crafting an experience that, for those who connect with it, can be transcendental.

Comparisons to Cyndi Lauper, as well as the classic Cranberries track ‘Dreams’, were drawn when listening to Pale Waves' set
Also in attendance were their label-mates Pale Waves, who provided the support slot directly before the headline act. They played a tight 30 minute set to a receptive crowd that included their first and arguably best single ‘There’s a Honey’ as the last song, set against the simple glow of red-tinted stage lights. As slick and as polished as most of the output from their parent label Dirty Hit is, the band’s sound couldn’t shake the fact that most of their more defining features are inherited a little too directly from their bigger label mates, their sound leaning a little too heavily on the headline acts early work. Although engaging, it is hard yet to see the next steps for the band to leverage the talent they quite clearly possess.

This is not to say that this is a band without promise. Comparisons to Cyndi Lauper, as well as the classic Cranberries track ‘Dreams’, were drawn when listening to their set, and the songs sounded undeniably exciting. More importantly, Heather Baron-Gracie commanded a real presence on the stage; an artist that has the true potential to elevate a woman-fronted pop band like hers to the levels of success enjoyed by the headline act. If they can find a way to progress their sound in a new and alternative direction, without leaning too much on the sounds of their label-mates, Pales Waves have the serious potential to carve out a lane of their own in the current state of alt-pop.



Published

18th February 2019 at 7:00 am

Last Updated

17th February 2019 at 1:42 pm



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