The self-titled era makes a comeback for War Child
Sarah Taylor
15:48 2nd February 2023

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The 1975’s show at Manchester’s beloved Gorilla has been on everyone’s lips since Matty Healy’s cryptic announcement triggered social media furore in December. When would the tickets go on sale? What would the band play? With Gorilla’s capacity standing at 520, demand for tickets was far greater than supply. The lucky few who managed to secure them could not have predicted what would ensue.

The 1975, who have just wrapped up the UK leg of their massive arena tour, aptly titled At Their Very Best, play the show as part of BRITs Week presented by Mastercard for War Child, a charity that aids vulnerable children living through wars across the globe. A speech from War Child CEO Rob Williams, draws attention to the important work the charity do, particularly in response to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

After the melodrama of the At Their Very Best Tour with its elaborate mid-century house set-up and Healy’s increasingly provocative viral antics, setting foot in Gorilla, the atmosphere could not be more different, as a single rectangle shines around the drumkit.

The rectangle is, of course, emblematic of the band’s early EPs and albums, and its white glow alludes to a return to the past, as The 1975 strut on stage to the original version of their self-titled introductory track, before launching right into ‘The City’, a song written about “this very street” in Manchester. What follows is a set brimming with joy and nostalgia, as The 1975 proceed to play their entire first album from start to finish.

The 1975 which turns ten years old this September captures a moment in time – one that won over their doc marten-clad, Tumblr-obsessed fans, who have turned up in the appropriate attire, ready to relive their teenage years. Brandishing his signature red wine bottle, and cig in hand, Healy jokes that drummer George Daniel hates playing these songs because they’re so demanding, and the band were in their “drums era”.

But make no mistake: The 1975 are not just some legacy band, resting on their laurels as Healy comments “Nostalgia is a sickness […] We’re only just starting to make our best work now so I don’t mind doing something that’s slightly nostalgic.”

The sheer joy of both the band and the audience is palpable, with Healy dedicating the set to “hardcore fans”, many of whom are present. Some have flown in from the likes of Cologne, Boston, and New York to witness this once in a lifetime event. One person even holds a sign revealing they have missed the birth of their niece to be here – “don’t do that!” Healy laughs.

The iconic frontman also acknowledges the familiar faces in the crowd – those devoted fans who have followed the band from day one or on multiple dates of their stacked arena tours. The band speed through rarely played gems like ‘M.O.N.E.Y.’ and ‘Settle Down’ which haven’t been performed since 2017 and 2016 respectively, as well as favourites ‘Sex’ and ‘Robbers’.

"...make no mistake: The 1975 are not just some legacy band, resting on their laurels"

The rest of the band depart momentarily, leaving Healy to deliver a gentle, if somewhat shaky rendition of ‘Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You’ on piano. This is a particularly raw performance with the emotion clear in his voice, bringing the crowd to a standstill.

Moments later, The 1975 return to the stage for a round-up of hits, drawing from all corners of their discography. Though people shout requests, the band stick to a honed setlist, with Healy admitting he doesn’t like playing ‘Milk’ and ‘If I Believe You’ to some gasps of horror.

He implores attendees to donate to War Child and highlights the even larger number of children saved from the modern slave trade by the charity since the band’s last intimate show for them in 2017, at London’s The Dome.

Tender renditions of ‘Be My Mistake’ from 2018’s A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships, and recent Tik-Tok favourite ‘About You’ close out the 90-minute show, with the female-vocal verse usually sung by guitarist Adam Hann’s wife, Carly Holt-Hann, being handed to the audience, who do not disappoint, crying it’s lyrics at the top of their lungs.

It’s clear that The 1975’s performance at Gorilla means a great deal to those present. It’s a celebration of a band who – to quote their frontman – “just keep getting better”, and whose music has come to define their generation.

It also stands in stark contrast to the bravado and bombast of At Their Very Best, a show which Healy has described on several occasions as emotionally unsustainable. “I don’t want to do that anymore. I just want to do this.” There’s a sense that this is as much for the band as it is for the fans, with Healy nodding to the therapeutic nature of the set: “This is really fun, so much less pressure."

An incredibly special night, and one that those present will never forget. 10/10.

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Photo: Jordan Curtis Hughes