Last night, Arena Birmingham hosted the highly anticipated event: The 1975’s return to Birmingham. The four-piece who have cemented themselves as one of the biggest bands in the world had attracted an enormous crowd. As an audience member who had never seen The 1975 before, I was excited as I had almost exclusively heard positive things about their live performance, but I was also intrigued by the controversy which surrounds the band, whose music seems to be like marmite, and whose outspoken front-man seems to be continuously making headlines.
Opening the show was beabadoobee, who was joined by her band. With her distinctive sound of grunge-pop set the tone for the evening. beabadoobee’s set was assured and empowering, with the perfect balance between a performance for old fans and new listeners. Throughout beabadoobee’s set the arena had filled with fans eagerly awaiting The 1975 and relishing every moment of the support act’s set.
The growing sense of excitement in the air was undeniable, and the sighting of Denise Welch, actress and mother to front-man, Matty Healy, sent the crowd into a state of giddiness. As the minutes passed, the already full venue seemed to gain more audience members, and as the lights went down, it was clear the crowd were ready to soak up every second of The 1975’s set.
From the second the band took to the stage, the crowd were in the palm of Healy’s hand. With a front-man whose stage presence shone, and a band with extraordinary instrumental talent, the audience instantly fell in love. Kicking things off with ‘People’, one of the tracks from the band’s forthcoming fourth studio album, ‘Notes on a Conditional Form’, immediately got the crowd moving, singing, and ready for more. Joined by saxophonist, John Waugh, and backing singing and dancing duo, Taitlyn and Kaylee Jaiy, The 1975 incorporated the visual imagery from past music videos and album covers to create a slick entity of a performance.
Taking the audience through a cohesive set-list that honoured the anthems for old fans, and included unreleased tracks, the 24-song long set, which was accompanied by 5 musical interludes well and truly delivered. Following the performance of the unreleased ‘Guys’, a ballad to the friendship of the four band members, and an homage to the sometimes turbulent journey they have experienced together, Healy stated, ‘That was for when I was 16, this is for when you were 16’, as the band played fan-favourite, ‘Robbers’. In past gigs, years ago, there was often a moment in the set when fans would be asked to put away their phones and experience the moment, something that has not happened in a while, but Healy returned to this, for his solo performance of ‘Be My Mistake’ which created an intimate relationship within an arena of 15,000 people.
An individual who has faced criticism for being out of touch, Healy’s awareness of his audience was enigmatic and endearing. Capturing so many of the common beliefs of fans in their lyrics has set The 1975 apart from other mainstream bands through tackling issues such as gun laws, climate change and political injustice, while also recognising the personal themes of the band, such as Matty Healy’s battle with addiction. Bringing these themes with the acknowledgement of the fans’, and band’s, hopes and fears for the world, and themselves, seems to confirm the band’s unique relationship with their fans which appears to be mutual and supportive. The recorded track ‘The 1975’ featuring Greta Thunberg played out and was followed by ‘Love It If We Made It’ encouraging the change-the-world feeling that makes the band so appealing to young people.
As the evening drew to a close, the band’s final three songs, ‘Chocolate’, ‘Give Yourself a Try’ and ‘The Sound’ burst through the arena, creating a sonic spectacle and aura of joy. Ending their show on such a high note created an uplifting feeling that ended the set perfectly. Having expected big things from The 1975, I left the venue wonderfully surprised as the band had delivered an enormous performance proving that the success they have achieved is worthy and, still, happily wanting more.
By Emma Sherry