Photographs by Katrina Wong Shue.
May is a far cry from the summer festival circuit, thanks to typically unpredictable Canadian weather but you’d never have guessed it Friday night at Echo Beach in Toronto.
A balmy – by May standards – 20 degrees brought out the best in boho chic, grunge era oversized plaid shirts and tiny denim shorts, and everything in between. The kind of clique cross-section you’d find at the more diverse festivals. The mini-British invasion at Echo Beach by the 1975 and company was a welcome start to the summer season but like May weather, unpredictable and not always at its peak.
Indie upstarts The Japanese House kicked off the night with spacious dreamy pop, charming if not light on its feet. Full of synthizers and simple lyrics the allure wore thin yet remained lively enough to never veer into sleepy pop territory. Their appeal in large part thanks to their association with the ’75 was pleasant but far from memorable.
Bridging the gap was Wolf Alice, offering a more powerful set featuring uninhibited sugary melodies with electrifying edge and feral grunge guitars. The laid back feel of Echo Beach slowly began to be overtaken by the band’s enthralling appeal. Tracks “Bros” and the “Freazy,” showcased Ellie Rowsell’s energy and exhilarating swagger, energizing the audience just in time for Matt Healy and the 1975.
The balmy late spring weather had all but disappeared as the chameleon rockers appeared on stage making way for a chilly lake Ontario breeze. The indie chart-toppers, who found mainstream success with their sophomore album, the long-winded I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of it, kicked off the night with “Love Me,” the INXS-laden guitars and high energy throwing the crowd into a frenzy.
Illuminated by mammoth pink lit pillars, Healy flounced around on stage like a raggedy Andy doll to the screaming adoration of teen girls and their nonchalant boyfriends, singing of flawed romances, mental anguish and infidelity. “Ugh,” “Change of Heart” and “She’s an American” carried the audience sing-a-long well into the night.
The 1975′s high-energy charm, lyrical intelligence and 80s underpinned pop felt stretched thin over a lengthy hour plus set. A meandering neo-tronica break, a string of subdued tracks “Somebody Else,” “Paris,” and increasingly cool night air wore on early excitement of their sax-laden pop hooks.
Healy is most appealing when spastic and unpredictable, heightening the ‘75s thrill of glossy pop that’s best enjoyed in short doses. Despite their best intentions to give fans their money’s worth Healy and company felt increasingly tired and withdrawn as the night wore on. Gone was Healy’s lusty scruffy sex appeal, if it was ever present during the night. The ‘75s rough exterior and scandalous lyrics disappeared into an oft times an all too rehearsed set and subdued sleepy pop, something even the Japanese House avoided.