Music Editor Daisy Kirkaldy reviews The 1975 at Arena Birmingham, claiming it to be a fantastic gig – if a little recycled
The 1975 had not sold out the Arena Birmingham this time around, but the venue still felt packed and tension was heightened. Having pushed back the release of their third studio album (now to be released at the end of April 2020) I admittedly was curious to see what this tour would be like, the lack of a new album would surely mean repeating material from previous tours and their headline slot at Reading + Leeds last year. This turned out to be the case, but certainly didn’t ruin a brilliant gig nor mar the band’s stellar reputation.
They started with ‘People,’ the angriest song they’ve ever released and a firm fan favourite. The song is the perfect opener, shouty and rowdy enough to make a huge impact on every member of the audience. The visuals were equally as arresting – they demanded your attention and were the perfect opening for what would continue to be a show of stunning backdrops.
‘Sex’ was up next, which shocked me due to its usual place as part of the encore of the set. ‘Sex’ was one of the bands breakthrough singles, and is one of the most memorable from the band’s first album. The shift from ‘Sex’ (moody visuals) into (colours everywhere and the emergence of the Jaiy twins, The 1975’s brilliant backup dancers) was perhaps the most bizarre of the night, but confirmed for the audience that The 1975 are a band to keep you perpetually on your toes.
The 1975 are a band defined by eras. Their first album/era, The 1975, is remembered amongst fans for Matty’s shaved mohawk (which I must add has finally made its long-awaited comeback for this tour), an all-encompassing black-and-white image and general teenage angst. The following album/era, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, was characterised by pale pink imagery, and a shift towards 80s synth pop: think John Hughes’ movie soundtracks. The third album/era was A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships and saw a move towards a more experimental approach to pop as well as a far more political agenda for the band. We are now firmly planted within the Notes on a Conditional Form album/era, which Matty has claimed is the beginning of the end for this phase of the band. He’s always very vague about it all, whether this means them releasing music under one of the band’s previous names (like Drive Like I Do or Bigsleep) or ditching music altogether, I’m not sure, but I can say I’m intrigued and excited.
After continuing with the always-brilliant ‘Sincerity is Scary’ and ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You),’ Matty struggled with wires on stage, while claiming “I’m getting worse at this” – I’d have to disagree. ‘Menswear’ was unexpectedly played next, another one from the first album, which achieved immense support from the audience, due to the rarity of its place on a setlist. There was a rumour amongst fans that the setlist would be different every night, the position of ‘Menswear’ on this night’s setlist seemed to confirm this.
After ‘Love Me,’ arguably the most energetic song from their second album, the stage went black and the screens flashed with a montage of ‘MATTY’ in various fonts. Healy has always faced criticism over his self-absorbed stage presence, so I thought this was hilarious. Healy also grabbed the mic to state that ‘It’s a joke guys come on,’ which was a nice touch.
Next came the first of a pair of completely unreleased tracks from their new album: Notes on a Conditional Form. ‘If You’re Too Shy (Then Let Me Know)’ is fantastic. The lyrics appeared on screen in various forms, which is ingenious for an unreleased song but almost not necessary as the chorus is so infectious. The saxophone solo was astounding to say the least, John Waugh has been the long term saxophonist for the band and his talent is insane. The second of the two unreleased tracks, ‘Guys,’ came a couple of songs later, accompanied by a montage of footage from 2011 – present of the band touring, performing and messing around on tour buses. Matty now had an acoustic guitar and the song seemed to be a lovesong for his bandmates, lyrics like ‘The moment that we started a band / Was the best thing that ever happened’ hammered home to the heartfelt message of the song. Matty concluded ‘Guys’ with ‘That was for sixteen-year-old me, and this is for sixteen-year-old you.’ The audience was left enthralled until the iconic opening riff of ‘Robbers’ was heard. Healy really seemed to be aware of the intensity of the fans who were present.
One of the highlights of the evening was Healy’s solo rendition of ‘Be My Mistake,’ accompanied by a single spotlight and an intensely quiet Arena. He delivered a ‘no phones for three minutes please’ speech which I always find hard to stick to, but looking around, it did seem as if people had abided by this rule. Healy truly had command over everyone in the Arena.
‘The 1975’ was played next: consisting of a speech by environmental icon Greta Thunberg, Matty strolling around the stage, and huge cheers accompanying certain powerful statements. The political undertone was furthered by ‘Love It If We Made It,’ an intensely passionate reflection of worldwide politics.
Anyone who has been to a 1975 gig since 2016 will recall with intense nostalgia ‘The Sound’ closing the show accompanied to Adam Hann performing the best guitar solo of The 1975’s repertoire. After being made aware of those struggling at the very front, Healy came out with ‘Don’t panic down the front just fight for your f**king life’ – a perfectly hilarious phrase for someone not in the midst of the swarming crowd.
All in all, The 1975 excelled yet again, both in stage presence, visual effects and musicality. I must say though, parts of the night did feel slightly recycled (not a Thunberg pun) – having seen their tour last year and at Reading Festival in the summer, but not to the extent of becoming predictable. The 1975 are such a phenomenal band, I’m almost hoping an extended break is in their immediate future: they deserve one in every right.
Tickets for the remainder of The 1975’s current tour are available here
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