First Concert of the Summer | The 1975’s 2016 World Tour

Last Sunday night, I had the pleasure of seeing the band, The 1975, perform at the Mann Center’s Skyline Stage in Philadelphia on a stop of their 2016 World Tour for their new album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it.  One of my best friends is a massive fan of them, and she needed someone to tag along to the concert with her.  Before I planned on going to the concert, I knew only a couple of songs by them (You might know “Chocolate” or “Girls”.), but I studied up on their two albums so that I could know some of the music before the concert.

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The 1975 performing “UGH!”

The band, who originally hails from Cheshire, England, is made up of four members:  lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Matty Healy, lead guitarist Adam Hann, bassist Ross MacDonald, and drummer George Daniel, who unfortunately couldn’t play due to a broken shoulder.  Their genre is a bit hard to pinpoint– surely it’s alternative, but it’s also a kind of ethereal blend of pop, rock, jazz, and funk.  Especially on the newest album, they blend a lot of different influences together, with sugary sweet synth, a booming gospel choir, and a smooth jazz saxophone.

The concert started off… chilly.  It was drizzling and cold (especially for mid-May in Philadelphia), and some people were dressed according to the weather, while others weren’t.  It was fun to see all of the funky outfits people were wearing; my friend and I spotted plenty of bright hair colors and even a pair of white gogo boots.  We joked about the cultural phenomenon that manifests itself at a concert like The 1975’s: everybody tries to look different, but then everybody ends up looking kind of the same (but in a cooler way I guess?).

The first opener, The Japanese House, played kind of sleepy, synthy music– not exactly the best band to pump up an audience.  The second opener was Wolf Alice, who played a bit more upbeat music, but still not super dance-y stuff.  We were yearning for some of that as we shivered sitting on a blanket toward the back.

Finally, the stage lights lit up, and an incredibly long vamp left us all hanging until The 1975 came out playing “Love Me,” a funky song on their second album that reminds me a lot of Walk The Moon’s cover of the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing.”  It got the crowd dancing and excited, which was the mood for a lot of the concert.  The only time the audience was taken out of the realm of the show was when Healy had to stop abruptly at the beginning of “Heart Out” (which is a total jam) because some people in the mosh pit had gotten squeezed too far forward and fell.  But he very calmly asked everybody to take a few steps back and cheerily told us all in a thick British accent, “If somebody falls, just pick ’em back up, give ’em a kiss, and make sure they’re alright.  We gotta be here for each other.”

Once we got that out of the way, the audience just lived during the whole show.  It was a bit of a roller coaster, going from upbeat pop-y songs like “She’s American” and “UGH!” (which is so funky, I dare you not to dance when you’re listening to it) to quieter, slower songs like “A Change of Heart” and “Me.”  Still, because so many of the melodies are similar and there is always an element of the electronic in the background, the music all flowed together pretty cohesively, despite the tones of the songs varying from snarky disapproval to deep sadness.

The highlights for me, aside from one of the songs I knew best–“Girls”– were the ’80s ballad-esque “Robbers,” the following song, “You” that has a really stirring beat and melody, and the entire encore.  When The 1975 came back onstage after “Girls,” they started their encore with the powerful and pleading “If I Believe You,” that definitely has some gospel influences to highlight the religious undertones of the song.  (“This song is about Jesus,” Healy said when he introduced it.)

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The 1975 performing “Chocolate”

But they didn’t let us sway and gospel two-step for long; the following song was the effervescent and flamboyant “Chocolate,” their best-known song, followed by two of my favorite songs by them: “The Sound” and “Sex.”  “The Sound” has the same dance-y keyboard vibes that I love about Jess Glynne’s “Hold My Hand”, and when they started playing it, the whole crowd was just jumping and dancing, and it felt so genuinely joyful.  They finished the concert with “Sex,” which sounds like an ’80s pop-rock version of a Jimmy Eat World song, like a song they play in an old teen movie when all the kids are driving too fast on the highway.  It was an epic way to end a concert, and I think it left everyone feeling joyously dazed (though for a lot of people, it might have just been the weed they were smoking).

All in all, even though I don’t know the band super well, the concert was a really fun way to start my summer break from school and a great way to be among a group of people I’m not usually around.  I got to witness so many people who were seeing their favorite band ever perform, and it’s just so entertaining and heartening to watch that kind of excitement.  The 1975 put on a great show, and I’d definitely go to see them again.

Have you seen The 1975 perform?  What did you think?  What other concerts have you enjoyed/are you looking forward to?  Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

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Third Concert of the Summer: Ingrid Michaelson’s A Summer Night Out Tour

Last night, my best friend and I went to the last show of Ingrid Michaelson’s A Summer Night Out Tour, my third and final concert of the summer.  You might know Ingrid only by some of her most popular songs, “The Way I Am,” “Maybe,” and “Be OK,” or by her most recent singles, “Girls Chase Boys” and “Afterlife.”  But Ingrid is one of my favorite singers of all time, mostly for her exquisite lyricism, poignant instrumentation, and understated yet powerful voice.  I couldn’t wait to finally see her perform after adoring her music for three years.

Her first opening act was the band, Secret Someones.  And let me tell you, they were fantastic.  They’re a really interesting assortment of people: three fierce female front-women (à la Haim) and a talented male drummer.  They had all of the power and energy of a 2000s punk girl band (with an 80s twist) but with the sharp clarity and harmony of a choir.  One of my favorite songs that they played was “I Won’t Follow,” so make sure to check out the video.

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Secret Someones

Ingrid’s second opener was the three-man band, Jukebox the Ghost.  Although I didn’t like them as much as Secret Someones, they did put on a good-mood set to get everybody ready for A Summer Night Out– after the rain!  There was practically a monsoon coming down during their sound check, and despite the fact that we were under cover, the storm terrified the crowd and even briefly flooded parts of the venue.  Thankfully, it calmed down enough for Jukebox the Ghost to get their jam on.

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Jukebox the Ghost

They also had a very unique sound; they reminded me of A Great Big World with their spotlight on the piano, but they incorporated some groovy WALK THE MOON elements.  I wished that they would have had a few more instruments (i.e. bass guitar) to give them a fuller sound (especially when they performed Queen’s classic, “Somebody to Love”), but they did a bang-up job for only three members.  Keyboardist Ben Thornewill played a heartwarming rendition of their song, “Undeniable You,” and they concluded with the get-up-and-dance song, “Somebody.”

And finally, Ingrid performed.  She opened with one of my favorite songs of hers (and my favorite on her newest album, Lights Out), “Time Machine,” a fiery anthem of regret with some killer saxophone.  After getting the crowd pumped up, she brought in some of her older songs: the cheery, “Everybody;” the calculated “Overboard;” the jazzy “Black and Blue;” and the gentle “Keep Breathing.”  Surprisingly, she played only a few songs from Lights Out (“Home,” “Afterlife,” “Girls Chase Boys,” and “Warpath”) and instead sang a plethora of her classics, including “Be OK,” “You and I,” and “The Way I Am.”

Ingrid

And she’s giving Ed Sheeran–who I call “The King of Covers”–a run for his money.  She, Allie Moss (a member of her band), and Bess Rogers of Secret Someones sang an angelic version of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love,” and in honor of the Supreme Court case legalizing same-sex marriage in the U.S., she sang Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” in front of a projection of rainbow lights.

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“Skinny Love” 
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“Can’t Help Falling in Love”

While singing her song, “Soldier,” each of the members of her band chose a song with the same chord progression to cover: Ingrid started with Lady Gaga’s “Pokerface,” and her band covered everything from U2’s “With or Without You” to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, they all sang their songs over each other to create a harmonious symbol of individuals coming together.

Not to mention, her revamped version of “Fire” blew me away.  After belting her way through the entire song, she and all of her band played drums in unison to form a percussion orchestra that killed it in the encore.  It was definitely her best rendition of an older song at the concert.

One thing that has perplexed me about the show, though, is that I didn’t cry.  A lot of times at live shows of artists I really care about, I just can’t help but lose it a little bit during the more emotional songs. So I was trying my best in the hours leading up to the show to prepare myself for seeing the goddess-like human being who is Ingrid Michaelson.

But what surprised me was that she didn’t seem like a goddess.  She seemed like your older sister’s kooky, quirky best friend.  Like that girl who practically lives in that indie coffee shop.  Like that girl you met at that party that one time who complimented you on your necklace, and you still remember it even now because she was just so weirdly cool.

She seemed like what we all want weird to be: interesting, appealing, unique.

But she didn’t seem untouchable.  While she shared goofy stories about her band and called them all “assholes,” and while she laughed off their goofy pranks involving plastic spoons and a giant cutout of her head, and while she made accidental dirty jokes and boasted Entenmann’s donuts at her meet-and-greet, she seemed like just one of us.  Just a weird person who happens to make beautiful music.  It was an interesting moment of seeing the real person behind the voice that has mesmerized me for three years.

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Ingrid and Her Band

And the concert wasn’t supposed to make me cry; she could have played some magnificently sad songs, but that wasn’t the vibe.  It was A Summer Night Out, like a barbecue or a bonfire, a celebration of friends and music and memories.  As she, her band, and the two openers sang the final song– Icona Pop and Charli XCX’s summer jam, “I Love It”–everyone was jumping up and down and dancing just like they would with their best friends, screaming the words like they would in their cars with the windows rolled down.  Having a blast at Ingrid’s last Summer Night Out.

Second Concert of the Summer: Taylor Swift’s 1989 Tour

Last night my best friend and I went to Taylor Swift’s first Philadelphia concert of the 1989 Tour.  And it was everything I could have hoped it would be.

After getting a shirt at the merch stand and some Rita’s water ice to get me through the excruciatingly hot day, the tour kicked off with an opening act by sixteen-year-old Canadian pop singer Shawn Mendes.  I was pleasantly surprised by his charisma and vocal talent; he’s got a boy-next-door kind of vibe, and he can really work a guitar.  I could sense some definite Ed Sheeran influences in his songs, and he did a pretty soulful job on Alicia Keys’ 2009 hit, “Fallin’.”

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Shawn Mendes

A little while after Shawn Mendes finished his set, the second opener, Australian-born Vance Joy came onstage.  Many people know him for his single “Riptide,”; I actually liked the song so much that I got his whole album on iTunes and loved it.  He bobbed his curly-haired head to songs like “Mess Is Mine,” “From Afar,” and “Georgia” and also added a heartfelt cover of Sam Smith’s Grammy-winning song, “Stay With Me.”  Altogether, Taylor Swift’s openers gave impressive performances and got the crowd settled in their seats with their singer-songwriter tunes.

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Vance Joy

But once Vance Joy had left the stage and the lights went down, the real party began.

The crowd went positively wild when Taylor Swift appeared onstage singing “Welcome to New York.”  I got chills that lasted probably a half hour.  And I enjoyed every moment that followed.

Taylor

The setlist was perfectly constructed (though I was sad that she didn’t include “Wonderland”), with powerhouse pop anthems like “New Romantics,” “I Wish You Would,” and “All You Had to Do Was Stay” toward the beginning to really get the ball rolling.  Toward the middle, she made her way down the catwalk (that rotated across the crowd!) to the B Stage for some slower songs like “You Are In Love,” “Clean,” and “This Love” to give the audience a rest.

Taylor

She mixed the endearingly sweet (“How You Get the Girl”) with the mysteriously dark (“I Know Places”) with ease and triumphed in her performances of old songs and new.  Among her revamped songs were a Lana Del Rey-esque version of “I Knew You Were Trouble,” a synth-y version of her classic hit, “Love Story,” and a hard-rock version of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”  She also added touches of “Enchanted,” one of my favorite songs on her album Speak Now, into her stunning song “Wildest Dreams,” off of 1989.  I always find it impressive when artists can find creative ways to make their old songs new again, which is exactly what Taylor did.

Taylor

In the quieter moments, Taylor talked to the audience on a more touching level than the rousing speeches she gave earlier on.  She called all of us her “friends” and thanked us for our constant support despite the media’s harsh criticism.  Like an older sister, she told us to accept our mistakes, to embrace our beauty, and to hold onto our friendships.

In between songs, the screens displayed video footage of her gal pals, Lena Dunham, Selena Gomez, and the members of the band Haim, along with many others, talking candidly about their friendships with Taylor and why female support is so important in a world where women are constantly pitted against each other.  (Her cats, Meredith and Olivia, also made an appearance in one of the videos.)

Speaking of Taylor’s friends, the Philly (Night #1) crowd was lucky enough to have not one, but three special guests!  First was the band Echosmith, recently made popular by their song “Cool Kids,” which they performed with Taylor.  I almost cried when they came out simply because of the intense feeling that we, the audience, were special; we were special because we got to experience this moment that would never happen again.

Sydney Sierota of Echosmith
Sydney Sierota of Echosmith

Later during “Style,” Taylor brought out two of the members of her girl-squad, model and actress (in the upcoming Paper Towns movie!!) Cara Delevingne, and Law and Order: SVU actress Mariska Hargitay.  They strutted down the runway and danced with Taylor as she sang about a complicated love that “never goes out of style.”  In a word, it was EPIC.

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Cara Delevingne
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Mariska Hargitay

Taylor Swift rounded off the concert with some more popular hits, including the ever-empowering “Bad Blood,” the perfectly layered “Out of the Woods,” and of course, the fabulously dance-y “Shake It Off.”  Taylor didn’t even need the fireworks that concluded the concert; the night was sparkling without them.

This concert was the perfect exhibition of Taylor Swift’s inimitable talent.  She showed off her voice by belting in the upbeat songs and pulling back in the subtler ones.  She danced like 50,000 people weren’t watching, and in almost every song wore a different bedazzled (or lit up!) outfit.  (My personal favorite was the sparkly jacket and shiny purple skirt from the opening number.  Fab.)  In her in-between monologues she showed a certain 25-year-old maturity that comes with acknowledging one’s own naivete.

She told us that she likes writing songs about things she finds “romantic,” but her songs reached much deeper than that on 1989.  Lyrics like, “You keep his shirt / He keeps his word” (“You Are In Love”)  and “We show off our different scarlet letters / Trust me, mine is better” (“New Romantics”) show that she’s grown to be more than just the princess in a fairy tale.  She’s the master of her craft, a Queen of Pop, an advocate of independence and originality.

During “You Are In Love,” we all echoed the word “silence” as she sang it in each refrain.  And as I sang it back to Taylor, I thought of the paradox of a stadium full of people singing the word “silence.”  Because nothing about that moment was silent.  Taylor was using her voice to help us use ours.  To show us that underneath all our differences, “everybody here wanted something more.”

First Concert of the Summer: Ed Sheeran’s X Tour

Concerts are one of my favorite places to be; the music, the atmosphere, and just the presence of a talented musician all fill me up with a kind of exciting sense of fulfillment.

Last night, I went to a performance of Ed Sheeran’s (Multiply) Tour, my first concert of the summer, with my concert buddy/suite mate from college.  Back when I first saw Ed in 2012 for his + Tour, he wasn’t widely popular (besides his singles “A Team” and “Lego House”).  But once I saw him open for Taylor Swift on her Red Tour, I knew that he was no longer a unique facet of my friends’ and my musical tastes, but now a musician who belonged to the public–media, fans, and all.  Since then, he created his amazing second album, X, which includes a few songs you’ve probably heard on the radio: “Sing,” “Don’t,” and “Thinking Out Loud.”  He’s one of the most talented musicians in the business today, and his performances never fail to knock my socks off.

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“Should this be the last thing I see / I want you to know it’s enough for me / ‘Cause all that you are is all that I’ll ever need.”- Ed Sheeran, “Tenerife Sea”

His setlist was spot on; he played all of the most popular songs on (but I wish he would have played “One”), threw in a few of the most memorable tracks from +, and fulfilled his role as, what I like to call him, the King of Covers.  He has this remarkable ability to pick the most unexpected covers that fit in seamlessly with his songs; he whipped out tunes like Stevie Wonder’s funky, “Superstition,” Blackstreet’s R&B staple, “No Diggity,” Iggy Azalea’s breakout song, “Fancy,” and classics, “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Feeling Good.”

And Ed sure knows how to control a crowd.  He got everyone clapping in unison and singing during his more upbeat songs (He always makes it a point not to be afraid of looking stupid at his concerts.) and holding their shining phones up in the air and swaying during the slower ones.  During his last song before the encore, one of my favorites called “Give Me Love,” he got the entire crowd singing in harmony while he sang and played guitar over us.  It was one of those magical moments that happen when music is made live.

While he’s performing, it’s hard not to simply stare in awe at Ed Sheeran’s raw talent.  You can see how hard he’s worked to get where he is in his one-man shows; he has incredible vocal range and control, he plays guitar harder than I’ve ever seen anyone before, his raps are clever and slick, and he layers his voice, beats, and strums like a cake with the help of his loop pedal.  He’s got everything you could want in a live performance: charisma, stamina, originality, and unadulterated talent.  Even if you aren’t familiar with Ed’s mix of singer/songwriter, R&B, folk, and pop, I highly recommend going to one of his concerts just to witness what it truly is– someone doing what they are meant to do.

Something I found last night (as I usually do at concerts) is that going to a concert really is a test of presence.  You could see all levels of presence in the audience; some were filming entire songs on their phones, some were simply nodding along to the music, while others were singing their hearts out or dancing with their friends.  And I find whenever I’m in that kind of setting, I don’t fail the test, but I don’t ace it either; there are moments when I’m truly present, and there are moments when I JUST NEED A GOOD PICTURE DANGIT.

At the concert last night, I tried to really be there.  I took snippets of video and a few photos (as you can see), and instead of holding up my phone to record a whole song, I just started a voice recording and slipped my phone into my pocket.  Still, I felt the constant pull between “I want to remember this forever so I need to document it!!” and “I need to watch this show through my eyes and not through my phone screen!!”  I’m not sure if I’ve found the balance yet, but I’m working on it.

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“So you can keep me / Inside the pocket of your ripped jeans / Holdin’ me closer ’til our eyes meet / You won’t ever be alone”- Ed Sheeran, “Photograph”

Certainly the most present I felt during the concert was while Ed was playing my favorite song on X, “Photograph.”  The lyrics are poignant and honest, and the steady rhythm is comforting like a heartbeat.  I was far back on the lawn of the venue, and the sun had just set, so above me was an enormous dome of open sky with clouds that were a kind of reddish-pink that I don’t have the proper vocabulary to describe.  Hearing the words of the song (that I think I cried listening to for the first time if I remember correctly), “I won’t ever let you go / Wait for me to come home,” filled me with something– youth, joy, oneness with the universe, I don’t know.  I felt God there, I felt me there, and I felt everyone there.  Deep enough for ya?

Have any of you had similar experiences at a concert or elsewhere?  How have you tried to find the balance between personal presence and memory preservation?  Are any of you Ed Sheeran fans (i.e. Sheerios)?  Let me know in the comments!

Also, thanks so much to everyone who’s been reading my blog and giving me nice comments here and on various forms of social media!  It’s awesome to have so much support when trying something new!