As an earnest pop band unafraid to dabble in the slightly outrageous, the 1975 can be a lot at times. That, however, is not a bad thing.
The Manchester, England, outfit has succeeded at channeling an abundance of synths, camp and evolving insight into something occasionally perplexing, consistently arresting and, often, quite good. This quartet is audacious enough to name their 2016 album “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It,” but talented enough to get away with it. But what also endears the band to listeners is their tongue-in-cheek self-awareness: They opened their sold-out show at the Anthem on Tuesday night with the soft hum of a variation of the eponymous opening track they’ve used to begin every album since their eponymous 2013 debut.
Similar to their albums, the 1975’s live performances take audiences on an emotional roller coaster (complete with a corresponding light show, to frame the mood), ascending to celebratory highs before plummeting into personal lows — all before rising once again. The difference, of course, is the intimacy of the concert setting, which emphasizes the sincerity in their music.
Ebullient songs such as “Give Yourself a Try” and “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME,” both from 2018’s “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships,” reveal the band’s knack for wrapping sobering honesty in exuberance. On the former, frontman Matt Healy speaks on a few revelations that have accompanied getting “spiritually enlightened at 29” over screeching guitars: “friends don’t lie and it all tastes the same in the dark.” The advice for younger listeners heard throughout the song was underlined when Healy sang it in front of an audience, as it felt like he was speaking directly to them. And the latter — which featured Healy dancing, drink in hand — pokes fun at the trials and tribulations of monogamy in the era of online dating.
Parsing romantic relationships at various stages is familiar territory for the 1975. 2016’s synth-rich “A Change of Heart,” which Healy encouraged the crowd to join him in singing, addresses love gone sour. “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not Without You)” addresses another relationship — Healy’s past addiction to heroin — and turns a period of darkness into something sanguine.
The evening grew more intense as the 1975 explored the quest for purpose amid the world’s chaos. “Give it up for Jesus Christ, always making things nice and simple for everyone,” Healy, a noted atheist, told the audience ahead of 2016’s “If I Believe You.” The song’s minimalist structure and syncopated drag enhance the feeling of emptiness echoed throughout, and the hook (“And if I believe you, will that make it stop?”) wonders if absence of faith makes the void all the more cavernous.
After concluding with the sentimental strings of “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes),” the band returned for an encore which included “Love It If We Made It.” There was an added gravitas to the song, which references and quotes the 45th President of the United States (albeit in a non-complimentary fashion) as it was being performed just minutes from the White House — particularly through the lyrics “modernity has failed us.”
Sincerity may be scary, but along with a healthy dose of self-awareness, it is what the 1975 specializes in.