Giulia Bardelli tells us if The 1975’s first arena show was a hit or miss.
The 1975’s creative director and set designer is an absolute genius, no questions asked. With a complete reinvention of their aesthetic and sound over the past year, the four-man band came back boasting a more colourful palette than ever before. Despite what certain album reviews may say about The 1975’s sophomore album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, there are certainly a handful of tracks made to be played at large arena venues, and there was a lot of anticipation building up towards their show in Birmingham.
On the evening of the 22nd of March, Matt Healy, George Daniel, Ross MacDonald, Adam Hann and John Waugh – their saxophonist – took the stage at their biggest venue to date, which was also their first ever arena gig: the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham. Not a bad way to end their highly anticipated UK tour. The lights dimmed down, the white noise got louder and the graphics on stage burst into a bold pink. Instantly, the guitar riff of their hit single ‘Love Me’ is being played and the crowd goes wild. This track is so very different compared to anything off their debut album, but certainly better listened to live than recorded. Despite what others believe, their sound very much reminisces the likes of popular ‘80s band Duran Duran. Punchy and vibrant, the performance was grand and unlike any of their academy shows in 2014.
Their second track ‘UGH!’, which was the second single they released, did not give off the same vibe. In fact it’s almost a shame as it was not at all memorable, and is not the pop track suited to fill an arena venue the band had hoped it would be. This may have very well been their weakest song on the set list and definitely one better listened to through your headphones in order to appreciate Matty Healy’s strong vocals juxtaposed with the guitar riff throughout.
Their old material proved to be more successful in a venue that can hold up to 16,000 people. ‘Heart Out’ being the third song they played brought the crowd back to the earlier years when The 1975 were all about the contrast of black and white. The much lighter guitar solos as opposed to a full out verse in ‘Love Me’ allowed the saxophone to truly outshine. John Waugh’s saxophone solo was as splendid as ever and all eyes were on him as Healy swayed on stage. In this track, the live saxophone undoubtedly has a much more captivating effect than when listened to on a CD. Despite the slower songs, Healy very much embodies the rock star look and uses it to his full potential when on stage, dancing flimsily with a red wine glass in hand, swaying from side to side. It’s no doubt that he is a recognisable frontman and one admired by a swarm of teenage girls. However, his charm on stage made his chat seem rather forced in order to get the crowd going, which in no way needed to be done as the band already have such powerful stage presence.
‘She’s American’ resembles the likes of their older hit ‘Settle Down’. A slow build up to a drum solo and guitar riff played throughout the entire track. The static lyrics at the start, ‘Big town, synthetic apparitions of not being lonely’, are what show that The 1975, despite having drifted from their earlier style, still go back towards it in certain tracks in order to have a continuous theme of pop songs – a very contested subject amongst the band themselves. Older EP tracks like ‘Fallingforyou’, ‘Me’ and ‘Anobrain’ were a good break in between the more vibrant and overpowering songs. Despite not ever being played live, the crowd still managed to sing back the lyrics to ‘Anobrain’. ‘Anobrain’ was the dark horse on their setlist, with the dark instrumental accompanied by Healy’s obscure lyrics captivating the entire crowd.
A personal favourite of mine was ‘Loving Someone’ and I still remain baffled as to why this song was not an original single leading up to the release of their second album. The response from the crowd was far better than tracks such as ‘Paris’, ‘UGH!’ and ‘She’s American’. The electronic backing sound is a trait that truly distinguishes The 1975 from any other band, also used in ‘Menswear’ to get the whole arena quiet and on edge during the two minutes of instrumental.
Despite this tour promoting tracks from their new album, The 1975 provided an abundance of older songs that shook the arena, possibly more than their new material. ‘Chocolate’, ‘The Sound’ and ‘Sex’ were the best songs for the band to end on as it brought uproar within the entire arena and the graphics were spectacular. Personally, their new album is one that is much easier to appreciate at home through headphones than at a large arena. That being said, the lighting and set design of the show seems to be the major reason for attending.