The 1975

support Mount Rushmore Safari
author TL date 21/11/13 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

When fancy music magazines worldwide decide that it's time to crown the "Best newcomer" of 2013, The 1975 is a band whose name is bound to make the short list, because not only has their single "Chocolate" seen widespread radio play pretty much everywhere, their whole debut album "The 1975" is really nothing short of spectacular, flashing a consistency in regards to hitmaking that is frankly a little frightening, especially considering the Manchester group's young age.

It's not really a surprise then that Loppen is packed full of people that look a lot like they all have copies of Soundvenue lying on their coffee tables at home, and that arriving even 40 minutes before the support band I still face a long line to the cloakroom and near impossible odds of making it close enough to the stage to see a whole lot. Still though, I find a spot from where I can just spot the microphone stands above the heads of seven lines of mostly female fans, and in the middle of the stage stands the big white frame that fans will recognise from the album's artwork and from the video to "Sex". "I wonder if it's going to light up" I say to my colleague Andreas. "Nah, doesn't it look like it's made of wood?" he replies, but before we find out, there's the matter of the warm up act:

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Mount Rushmore Safari

The support slot has been given to local indie rock quartet Mount Rushmore Safari who put out a debut album called "Elba" earlier this year and who have already gotten their feet wet in terms of playing a few shows abroad. Despite their lead singer and guitarist Andreas Sorgenfrei having "RAW POWER" tattoed on his forearm and David Bowie on his tank top, my first impression of them is that it's Billy Idol that hasn't lived in vain, because of the first three tracks, two of them have me one hundred percent convinced that I'm about to hear a cover of "Dancing With Myself". Sorgenfrei simply has a comparable energy to him as he lets out barytone lows drenched in reverb - sounding like British 80's bands like The Cure and New Order have seen massive spin time on his home stereo. The same goes for the rest of the band, which evokes similar references with insistent drumming, thick bass and ambient keys.

The songs sound competently written, yet clearly derivative of the mentioned retro influences, yet they come through well enough, as the sound is good except maybe featuring the bass a bit much at the cost of the guitar and keyboard. Maybe they are a bit too much alike, but the real problem for Mount Rushmore Safari is the way Sorgenfrei handles himself as the clear fixpoint of attention in the live performance. While looking to be enjoying himself while playing, each time he addresses the audience he looks and sounds like he's taught himself how to act and talk like a frontman, but is doing it in an automated way, like he's addressing a wall and not a live, responsive audience.

"You guys look great tonight!" and "We're super excited to be seeing The 1975" he says with enthusiasm so platonic that we get the feeling that he could not care less who's playing next and that he hasn't even seen the audience he's complementing. Then he proceeds to rock about with his eyes closed, which is always a no-no (seriously - ALWAYS - young bands take notes here). The consequence is that while the band's interpretation of their influences sounds convincing and solidly written and rehearsed, the actual performance feels robotic: Like they haven't understood that the point of any show is to actually connect with the audience before them, if they hope to send anyone at all home with some positive impressions.

The 1975

The traditional half hour changeover proceeds with very few people giving up their spots in front of the stage before the house lights dim and The 1975's white frame lights up like white neon. I send Andreas a smug look which he attempts to parry with an expression that says "oh well" and a hundred women reach a pitch one would think was reserved for boybands and Panic! At The Disco. Simultaneously a forest of smartphones appear (no tablets though, thank God) inspiring a few seconds of me revisiting the idea that the world needs a viral social media campaign informing concert newbies how uncool this is.

These considerations are quickly interrupted by an excitement seizing the venue as the set starts like the band's album with intro "The 1975" and opening track "The City", and one thing that stands out immediately is how well the band's music works in the live environment. The sound is loud, bass-y and immersive like an electronica concert, with the drumbeats tugging at your body, and the performance is delivered on top of rich samples that recreates the album's dense production, yet the guitars have a sharp presence where you can hear fingers sliding on strings and frontman Matt Healy's vocals have an extra bit of force behind them, as he initially has to strain a bit against a low presence in his monitor.

"I would offer you some of my wine but some of you look like you're not old enough to drink it"

It's an excellent mix of the artificial and the real then, even after Healy's monitor is adjusted and he gets to wield his singing voice more freely and comfortably, and the adjustment only improves the show, because with The 1975's songs being as brilliant as they are, and the sound being as good as it is, one of few possibly avenues the band could further shine in, would be for Healy to squeeze just a little more life and flair into his singing, which otherwise follows its recorded version rather loyally.

This is a speck of a detail that I doubt most people are noticing though, as the band knocks one dance- and singalongable tune off the setlist after another, sandwiching lesser known EP tracks like "So Far (It's Alright)" and "Heads.Cars.Bending" in between "M.O.N.E.Y." and "Talk!", the latter of which has the crowd singing along elatedly to the opening query "Why do you talk so loud?!" The lightshow compliments the soundscape excellently, with white strobes and the white frame flashing in rhythm with the beats, and with only occasional use of warm yellow spots to interrupt the band's stylish monocrome aesthetic, the most colorful thing on stage is the bottle of red wine that Healy casually swigs from between songs.

As for the band, Adam Hann, George Daniel and Ross MacDonald handle their duties on guitar and keys, drums, bass and electronics respectively, while rocking about casually and seemingly comfortable letting Healy take the brunt of the fans' attention from his spot in front of the white frame. The young frontman acts predictably like a man luxuriously stuck between an excitement for performing his songs and a status as a rising star, contorting his body vividly, scaling monitors and throwing his floppy haircut around when moments away from the mic allow it, and giving the audience looks when he's back and singing, like he's a young Colin Farrell and they're the female leads in some movie scene where he's about to mack on them.

In Loppen's intimate setting Healy appears a rather accessible sex symbol on stage, prompting some proper fan girl screaming when he removes first his poncho and later his shirt, finding himself topless along with drummer Daniel (in their defense, the packed room is pretty damn warm). Meanwhile "Heart Out" and "Girls" have heightened the excitement in the crowd which Healy takes care to spread his attention around, distributing water to the front rows and calling out to the people crowding the area between the side of the stage and the bar: "Hey people! I'm sorry you all have to be over there, but I'll try to pay as much attention to you as I can".

"For a country that's really, really cold, this room is unbelievably warm, isn't it?"

As the show approaches its closing at the one hour mark, Healy seems to become increasingly self-aware of the clichés he finds himself saying between songs, letting a tone into his voice that sounds like he's mocking either himself or the nature of the show, which is a shame because the clichés like "I have never seen so many beautiful women in my life"" and "This has been really special for us" would actually feel entirely in order tonight. Whatever little it detracts from the experience however, is clearly made up for as the band makes it to "Chocolate" and "Sex" and opts out of the typical disappearance/reappearance encore-routine: "We have two more songs, and normally we would leave and come back, but what's the point? We might as well stay here and just play some more for you guys, right?". Right. And some hits are clearly bigger than others, as the mood in the room could hardly be higher if Kings Of Leon had come on to play "Use Somebody". "Sex" in particular sounds like an arena-beater of a song, capping off a strong performance, characterised by great sound, great lighting, a happy audience and a parade of tunes that never lets the mood dive even for a second. Frankly, to see this show in this intimate venue already seems a bit ridiculous, and with The 1975 bound for bigger stages in the near future, I have no doubt that plenty of people leaving this room will prompt jealous looks in years to come, when they talk of seeing The 1975 in a humble 450 capacity venue.

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