1975 – Manchester Review

Review by Jess Mason

“I don’t have to say how special it is to be here” – The 1975 return to
Manchester for their ‘very best’ home show.

Forming in 2002 before the majority of young fans in the audience were even born, the
Cheshire band The 1975 returned to the city that essentially put them on the map for their
best hometown gig yet.

After a recent hour-long interview with DJ Zane Lowe wandering the streets of Manchester
discussing how much it resonates with frontman Matty Healy, and not forgetting Taylor
Swift’s rather random appearance at their O2 London show, the AO arena was filled with
anticipation of whether home-turf fans were going to be in for a treat.

Focusing on their latest no.1 critically acclaimed album Being Funny In a Foreign Language,
and playing their greatest hits, this 2.5 hour show is a highly produced masterclass of not
only the crisp sound of a live band, but also how to tell a story through music.

As soon as the curtain dropped, the crowd was stunned with a grandiose set encompassing
a full-size house across two floors joined together by a spiral staircase. Impressive to
spectate from a wide scale, but also the attention to detail is immense as genuine family
photos are incorporated alongside shelves full of lyric books for each song in the line-up.
The 1975 have always been one for extravagant stage design whether that be a conveyer
belt in their 2020 tour or their captivating light display in 2019, but this undoubtedly is a
progression and better than a lot of theatre productions.

Each member of the band entered the stage individually to their LCD Soundsystem’s All My
Friends inspired tune The 1975 (B.F.I.A.F.L edition) where Healy lights his first cigarette of
many and sits reflectively at the piano singing “I’m sorry if you’re living and you’re 17”
examining life in the digital age.

Booming from the speakers was the 80s sounding pulsing synths and pumping drums of
Looking For Somebody (To Love) and as fans bounced around and clapped above their
heads, Healy does exactly what he does best – sings dark lyrics over colourful instrumentals
– this time about the psyche of a mass shooter over galloping Springsteen-esque goopy
guitars “I wanna smash the competition, go and kill it like a man should.” This sets up the
rest of the first half perfectly as toxic masculinity is a focal theme.

Directed by himself, Healy almost inhabits the role of A Streetcar Named Desire’s Stanley
Kowalski, as he flexes to the camera, alludes to wanking on a sofa, eats raw meat followed
by several press-ups and stumbles around stage drinking from a bottle of wine. Especially
with the similar Streetcar house stage design amplifying this too.

As quoted by Healy himself, the first half is a “show about the show” as on-screen credits of
the band’s names accompany the start and end of their performance. After the heartfelt All
I Need To Hear, Matty breaks the fourth-wall with a clapper board and stops portraying the
hard-drinking male rockstar to say hello down the camera, and more importantly to swap
the wine for a swig of lemsip. The frontman was not only in control of the stage, but also the
audience as fans watched open eyed and enthralled by the meta concept.

Playing all but two songs from their fifth album, it is clear the band have stripped back to
classic, saxophone heavy The 1975, mixed with stadium rock perfect for arena shows, and
simply writing good and honest love songs rather than trying to save the world.

Clearly, this resonates with fans, both new and old, as Part of the Band felt like a campfire
sing along as the crowd knew all of the lyrics, and the whole arena turned into a wedding
dancefloor for the hit single I’m In Love With You.

Extensive use of the set was never going to be questioned, as, filtered in amongst new
material was the politically fired I Like America & America Likes Me, performed slower stood
on the roof of the house which was emotional and gut-wrenching as Healy repeatedly
pleaded “Would you please listen?”

The end of the first half was signified by Matty crawling into a retro-TV which played out
rather dystopian-like and thrilling clips of controversial characters in real life, from Andrew
Tate to Maggy Thatcher to Prince Andrew, exploring the idea that we are constantly
overwhelmed by the media, yet we still get sucked into it.

Ultimately, the Manchester date turned into ‘The 1975 and Their Partners At Their Very
Best’ as there were surprise guest appearances from guitarist Adam Hann’s wife Carly Holt-
Hann to sing her beautifully enchanting verse in About You, and also Charli XCX, who has
recently started dating drummer George Daniel, who did a rendition of her iconic 2016
hyper-pop hit Vroom Vroom in between acts.

Entering the set shouting “where my fucking gays at”, Charli naturally embodied the arena
stage as her own and got fans screaming and excited ready for the second half of the show,
strutting around in shades and making use of the sofa in the stage design.

After an outfit change into all black, and notably with more shirt buttons undone, The 1975
returned to the stage to play banger after banger from their incredible roster of more than a
decade-long discography.

Matty Healy is no longer playing the role of a rockstar, he is the rockstar as the second half
of the gig is entirely without concept. Yet he still has the audience in the palm of his hand
suggesting there is never a dull moment from the sporadic frontman.
Despite there not being any wine spitting or fan kissing (or thumb-sucking for that matter),
which has gone down at previous shows, because Healy claimed he has “done too much of
that”, he did have a Greggs sausage roll thrown onstage which he proceeded to fish out
from under the sofa then spat it out stating “you’ve done something to that.”
Following this was their electro-pop single TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME accompanied by the
also highly anticipated autotune one-liner in the song’s intro “don’t throw menthols on this
stage” that originally began this bizarre tradition on tour.

Before playing Chocolate, one of the main tracks from their debut album to launch The 1975
into the mainstream, Healy thanked fans “10 years ago we put out this album and you’re
still here”, demonstrating their enticing performances always bring people back.
The arena thought surprises were over until the opening funky synths of fan-favourite
Menswear rattled through the speakers which was a debut on tour so far and left the crowd
screaming with glee.

Heart-rending songs Robbers and Somebody Else were emotional to get through, followed
by a third with I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes) which was met with a nostalgic anecdote
that the train in the opening lines refer to the train journey from Manchester Piccadilly to
Wilmslow, until it was cut short by Healy declaring that “nostalgia is a sickness.” As a regular
user of platform 14 at Manchester Piccadilly, I too always want to die sometimes.
The 1975’s versatility was highlighted with the angry and raw performance of the tabloid
headlines electro-rock number Love It If We Made It in which Matty bent over the
microphone putting in his all.

The audience were not left sentimental for long as Healy did his trademark shaky knees
dancing to a trilogy of upbeat classics The Sound, Sex and Give Yourself a Try finishing off
one of the best live shows of the century and saw fans bouncing together after being
ordered to by the frontman on the count of four. Closing with the gritty glitch pop tune Give
Yourself a Try, the arena erupted with The 1975 devotees singing out the insanely catchy riff
and ending with loud guitar distortion while the band members bowed and took in a well-
deserved applause.

This year, the band have been nominated for three Brit Awards, and while I think they
deserve to triumph every category, it is a shame there is not a brit award for the best live
show because they would win without a shadow of a doubt.

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