More like theatre than live music
Lucy Harbron
10:47 16th January 2023

More about:

Seems like everyone and their nan is talking about The 1975 these days. Even from across the pond, their US tour had FYPs in a chokehold as the band seemed to be almost reinventing what a live show is. Generating a level of hype that I can’t remember seeing for a tour in a long, long time; the witticisms, the staging, the ever-changing set list and stream of special guest felt new and exciting even if you weren’t there. But on night two of their London dates, I was there and a solid part of my vocal ability, sanity and soul will remain there forever more it seems.

First, let’s address two elephants in the room. One – I hate the O2. I think there’s no worse place on earth as your whole gig is dogged with anxiety about the hellish process of leaving without even being able to afford a good enough number of drinks to wash it away. And for a quote-unquote rock/indie band, it always seems like a strange venue to choose with little to no connection. But the band combatted it by almost outright refusing connection, instead; the audience is simply luck enough to be watching a show they’ve created in a way that strays more towards theatre than live music.

From the first second when you hear a car pull up and the band step inside the house stage, turning on lights as their names flash up on the big screens like opening titles; the world is built and they’ve thought about everything. The stage is done up in a way that a lot of other arena shows totally deprive, building a several room house on multi levels that seems to allow everyone a great view. As Matty gets woken up from his slumber on the sofa, stumbles his way to the piano and begins with the reinvented opener ‘The 1975’, everyone on stage sinks into a character and the audience’s tube-anxiety is replaced by a genuine intrigue about what could happen next.

Which leads us onto the second; the night before Taylor Swift emerged on stage as the band left the stage for the self-proclaimed interlude section. It was a strange feeling to be at a band’s show and be hearing everyone talking about other artists. The rumours were impressive and exciting with names like Harry Styles and Phoebe Bridgers whispered round the band. But alas, it was no one. And the announcement that there would be no surprise on that night could’ve ruined it, but instead it seemed to do quite the opposite. With the unknown gone and the band launching into their Best Of section; even the industry folk loosened up for a dance and the crowd seemed able to fully concentrate now. Maybe if I was the band, I’d have had the surprise on the second night to avoid the awkwardness; but I’m not so who really care.

The thing about The 1975 is that they have just a silly amount of great songs. Playing for two hours with the first half prioritising new album tracks, including a mass sing along to TikTok fave ‘About You’, and the second diving into the discography; I could’ve watched them for hours more. Scattering the set with rare track to hear like, including the deeply moving ‘I Couldn’t Be More In Love’ and ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’, they swung between genuine sincerity and high-energy movers with ease. With major highs including ‘Happiness’, ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You), ‘Paris’ and a huge rendition of ‘Love It If We Made It’, by the time Matty dove into the crowd during ‘Robbers’ to plant one on a gaggle of fans all desperate for some action, it would be hard to believe that anyone in the crowd wasn't a full on mega fan.

"And while this might be them at their very best, I get the feeling it will still only get better."

As Matty repeated out, the whole show is kind of meta. Making a show about a show, with crew wearing white coats and holding cameras on stage, dramatic music and American Psycho-esque influences as Matty drops and does push ups in front of TVs – I’ve never seen a show so aware that it’s being watched before. But as well as a playing with the idea of performance, Matty is clearly playing with the idea of the figure or the self. Touching himself on his sofa and stumbling about the house while swigging wine, it’s playing with the idea of who people seem to think Matty is. Hamming up the tortured artist, insufferable rockstar vibe while nodding to past eras when Matty’s addictions and drinking habits were romanticised as a fun part of their live shows; it all seems to almost take a dig at the audience, that want to see Matty be a messy and expect him to stay in that space forever regardless of his health. Obviously, we can’t say for certain, but I highly doubt Matty is actually drinking on stage to the extreme is pretends to be, as he manages to sing perfectly and keep the show tight and fault-free, unlike shows earlier in their career. Always being an artist with incredible vision, his acting was stellar and the show, written and directed by him, is fascinating in a way that live bands rarely are.

Finishing off with the four boys rocking their way through ‘Sex’ like the good old days, the new additions to the live band don’t take away from how genuinely heart-warming it is to see that despite it all, the band are still together. And while this might be them at their very best, I get the feeling it will still only get better.

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

More about:

Photo: Jordan Curtis Hughes