The 1975 has been touring on the same album for more than two years, and with each stop in Kansas City, they’ve drawn bigger, more raucous crowds.
Friday night at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland, the quartet from Manchester, England, headlined Night 3 of the Night the Buzz Stole Xmas, sponsored by radio station KRBZ, known as the Buzz. And by the time the headliner took the stage, the crowd of about 3,000 — split between men and women — was bristling with anticipation. It was the band’s fourth Kansas City appearance in two years and its second headlining gig, but it drew by far its largest audience.
The 1975 are like a boy band for teens and young adults. Their mop-top leader, Matthew Healy, prances, preens and poses like a teen idol while the band behind him energetically lays down bubbly rock and dance grooves via guitars, drums, synths, keyboards and the occasional saxophone. Their songs can be as unrepentantly catchy musically as they are prosaic lyrically, but most are built with large venues in mind, and Friday night a few sounded big enough for arenas, even a stadium.
The stage show was impressive: lots of lights and other visuals, including the four large rectangular towers arranged across the stage that glowed with a wide variety of colors and graphic patterns. Floating above the band, three large squares also emitted light and graphic images.
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The set list covered most of their lone album, “The 1975,” released in September 2013, a recording with which most everyone in the place seemed to be familiar. So early songs, like “Love Me” and “Settle Down” elicited loud, happy reactions.
In February, the 1975 will release their sophomore album, which has a title so pretentious it sounds like something Fall Out Boy rejected: “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It.”
Toward the middle of the 80-minute set, they played a few of those new songs, and each revealed a change in direction from the previous album: “A Change of Heart,” a wandering ballad that provided the night’s first lull; “She’s American,” a bouncy pop tune with a sax solo that provided the night’s lone Kenny G moment; and “Fallingforyou,” a slow-moving electro-pop ballad cast austerely in keyboards and light percussion.
All that set up the explosive end of the show, which was filled with favorites and hits. “Robbers” started the fireworks, which got progressively rowdier with each song. Then came “Girls,” another irresistible pop-dance tune with some INXS funk in its veins.
They followed that with a two-song encore that started with “Chocolate,” one more synth/guitar groove-fest that has a strong Phoenix vibe. By then, Healy was shirtless and strumming an electric guitar, stirring his rock-star imagery even more vigorously.
The show ended with “Sex,” an R-rated pop-rock anthem that gallops to a chiming guitar riff that recalls the Edge on U2’s “I Will Follow.” It’s about the emotional risks of casual sex, as in when real feelings erupt and hearts get bruised. But live, it feels joyous and redemptive, like the kind of song that can turn a packed theater into a cauldron of singing and dancing.
The 1975 will be back in town this spring for a show at Starlight Theater, a much larger venue, but don’t be surprised if they fill that, too. That seems to be the trajectory they’re on right now.
Their set followed a 40-minute set from Børns, an indie-/electro-pop act led by Garrett Borns, a glammy 23-year-old Michigan native with flowing dark hair and a tireless falsetto.
He released the first Børns album in October, an 11-track recording called “Dopamine,” which showcases his knack for rendering electro-pop in array of styles (glam rock, pop, disco, soul, psychedelia). It recalls at times the sounds of contemporaries, like MGMT, but it also bears some vintage sounds, like “Electric Love,” which marches to a “Rock and Roll Part 2” riff and which ignited a boisterous sing-along. Other highlights: “10,000 Emerald Pools,” “Overnight Sensations” and the album’s title track.