It seems these days that it is the ‘in thing’ to hate The 1975. Before NME were splashing their photos on their front cover, they named them the Worst Band of 2014, with indie Twitter seemingly awash with berating of the band and their material. Be that due to their outspoken frontman Matt Healy, their ever-so-slightly irritating // M A R K E T I N G C A M P A I G N S // or simply that you don’t like their music, there is one thing you have to give them credit for: they are an extremely talented live band. Having formed over 14 years ago in Manchester, it is clear from witnessing them play ‘the biggest show of [our] lives’ at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena that they have truly honed their craft.
However, the same cannot necessarily be said for their setlist. Playing their first ever arena show is both surprising considering the size of their fanbase and the acclaim they have received, as well as perhaps a step taken too soon. The Barclaycard was perhaps too big a venue for the setlist they chose – this could have been done due to the excitement of playing a venue that holds almost 16,000 people. However, some songs seemed out of place, especially as the other shows on the bill in March were sold out dates in various academies. While mega fans in the crowd will have lapped it up, with inclusions ranging from popular ‘Girls’ and ‘Sex’ to lesser known EP tracks, ‘Anobrain’ and ‘Me’, it was at times boring, and dare I say it, indulgent. However, knowing The 1975 as well as we do nowadays, the latter is not entirely a revelation.
On the whole, their live show was totally impressive. Opening with popular singles from their second album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, ‘Love Me’ and the absolutely fantastically produced ‘UGH!’, the night was off to a roaring start. With a neon pink backdrop constantly changing with each track, it was hard to take your eyes off the stage – that, and Matt Healy’s wine-induced dance moves. Further highlights came in the form of debut album track ‘Heart Out’ with a delectable saxaphone solo from John Waugh, and ‘She’s American’. The latter sounds like a ‘Settle Down’ 2.0, however when played live really shows off the best of the band’s capabilities, notably George Daniels’ skills on drums. For me, it was their older material that came off the best within the arena, with Healy and co. taking us ‘back in time’ with impressive cuts ‘Menswear’ and ‘Robbers’. In particular, EP track ‘You’ was a particular moment within the set that brought The 1975 back to their roots, playing a great indie rock song with no strings or gimmicks attached.
Healy was his usual self, addressing the crowd with as many compliments as he could muster. Talking not long after their second album hit #1 in the UK Charts, he told the crowd how they were “a wonderful fandom” and that he didn’t want to put on a live show for everyone in attendance “without appreciating it”. This last comment evoked an idea in Healy for the entire crowd to “have 5 minutes [without your] phones”… only for him to shout a few minutes later to grab them and stick them in the air, lighting up the arena. It seems that like their setlist, Healy can be just as uncertain and indecisive a frontman, which is partially why people find him so enigmatic and hard to understand in the press. Despite ‘Fallingforyou’ falling slightly short, album tracks ‘Loving Someone’ and ‘Change of Heart’ perhaps being subdued choices for a show of this size and a lovely yet slightly odd tribute to “our friends in Brussels” in the form of ‘Paris’ not fully evoking the emotion they’d hoped, there were two stand outs towards the end of the night: ‘Somebody Else’ and ‘The Sound’, perhaps two of their best tracks to date, were met with rapturous applause and were stuck in my head for the entire train ride home. With a refined and reworked setlist, The 1975 will be selling out arenas across the UK in no time.
[Originally written for The Indiependent]