The 1975 @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 5/2/16
The 1975 were simply made to play venues like Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Three years ago, when they first played Denver at the significantly smaller Marquis Theater, it was obvious that the band was destined for great things, and on May 2nd, as they performed for a nearly sold out crowd at the iconic venue in Morrison, Colorado, it felt simply perfect.
Opening up the show was The Japanese House, supplying listeners with eerie yet dreamy tunes as they kept trickling into the venue. While I had never listened to The Japanese House, I heard great things about the brainchild of Amber Bain, and thankfully, was not disappointed. I’m sure many people can relate to seeing an artist live, falling in love with them, and then being upset because you didn’t do your homework before the show, and therefore couldn’t really enjoy their music as much as possible - this is exactly how I felt about The Japanese House. Though Bain and her bandmates didn’t move around much on stage (she did mention she was sick, after all) the performance was absolutely entrancing. And in between songs, it was impossible for Bain not to gaze up at the massive amphitheatre, telling the excited crowd just how beautiful it was.
After The Japanese House was Wolf Alice, another band with quite a bit of buzz around them lately. Almost immediately after taking the stage, it was apparent why. Vocalist/guitarist Ellie Rowsell commanded the crowd with stunning vocals and a powerful energy, illuminated by dark blue lights, setting the perfect mood for the band’s performance. Taking on a more raw sound than the polished sound that The Japanese House had, Wolf Alice amped up the crowd, bringing up the energy and exciting Red Rocks before the headliners finally hit the stage.
Then, it was the moment everyone was waiting for. After Wolf Alice, the lights dimmed, and the crowd went absolutely wild. After a year away from Denver, fans were more excited than ever to see The 1975 take the stage, and I think I speak for everyone at Red Rocks Amphitheatre when I say that it was everything fans wanted and then some. Opening up the set with “Love Me” from their brand new album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, the band came out to bright pink lights, setting the perfect mood for what promised to be an incredible set. Vocalist Matty Healy was quick to entertain fans with dance moves, stellar vocal work, and his signature attitude that made the crowd go wild. And after “Love Me” the stage transformed into a beautiful cityscape for “UGH!,” as the band continued to power forward into their set.
The 1975 pressed forward with a healthy mixture of both new and old material for fans. Songs like “A Change Of Heart” and “Fallingforyou” earned excited screams from the crowd, but easily the high point of the night was right before the band performed “Me.” Addressing the crowd, Healy first began to talk about how grateful the band was to be playing at Red Rocks, citing the fans in the crowd for their success and their opportunity to be at such a beautiful venue. It was then that he asked something of the crowd - something that I’ve seen plenty of frontmen request at much smaller venues without complete crowd participation. Before diving into the emotional track, Healy asked all fans to put their phones away. “I’m not being grumpy,” he explained, gently coaxing the crowd into cooperation, “But the memory of the next five minutes will be far more potent than the fucking video on your phone.” And to my surprise, all phones went away within the blink of an eye. Even the girl next to me, who up until that point, had been recording the entire show cooperated and slipped her phone into her pocket. The entire crowd went dark, and what resulted was quite possibly the most emotional, unifying performance I’ve ever witnessed at any venue, let alone Red Rocks.
Throughout the rest of the night, the crowd seemed to take Healy’s words to heart, as significantly less cell phones were seen in the air, and instead, fans were dancing together and belting out the words to every song. Eventually, the set came to an end with “Girls,” but fans weren’t naive. Seconds after the band left the stage, they were already cheering for more, and after a few long minutes, Healy finally took the stage again, this time alone with an acoustic guitar. “We’ve never done this before,” he explained, telling the crowd that they decided last minute to perform “She Lays Down,” the final track from their new album, as a special treat for Red Rocks. “We haven’t even sound checked this guitar,” he continued. Though there was a slight technical difficulty at the beginning of the song, as soon as Healy began to play, it was apparent that we were witnessing something truly special. The acoustic song was emotional and very genuine, earning a sea of phone lights and lighters from the crowd.
After “She Lays Down,” the rest of the band joined Healy on stage for their remaining songs, which turned out to be fan favorites such as “Chocolate,” “The Sound” and “Sex.” Even as I walked away from the venue before the very end of the show, the crowd continued to sing and dance along excitedly. Judging from the gratitude from the band on stage and the excitement from the fans in the crowd, the night was a success. The 1975 played quite possibly one of the most magical shows I’ve ever had the privilege to see at Red Rocks, and I can only hope they visit the venue again on their next North American outing.