The Mic were lucky enough to witness The 1975 - possibly the biggest band on the planet right now - give a masterclass in spectacle, showmanship and sound.
The 1975 are, quite frankly, a band made to play arenas. Their egos and grandiose vision have always seemed slightly larger than their station, and now that they’ve actually arrived on the biggest stages, they show no sign of stopping. I saw them at Motorpoint Arena on February 15th, and it was one of the most singularly impressive arena shows I’ve ever seen.
The palpable thrill that passed through the arena upon the initial The 1975 intro raised the hairs on the back of my neck. It doesn’t hurt that fans of The 1975 are so passionate about this band – it’s difficult not to feel that you’re witnessing something rather special when you’re surrounded by thousands of young people who are obviously partaking in what is, to them, a kind of spiritual experience. Whatever can be said about the music itself, the band have the art of crowd-thrilling theatrics down to a fine art.
Opener People is almost calculated in its ability to provide an initial injection of energy to the proceedings, with Matty Healy screeching ‘Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!’. He sported a mullet, freshly shaven for the NME Awards – indeed, if Slowthai hadn’t hijacked the narrative, it would likely have been the talk of the evening. Hot on its heels was old favourite Sex, which is usually reserved for later in the set, and for good reason – it provides an emotional high point. The proclamation that ‘Rock and Roll is Dead, God Bless The 1975’ felt a tad pre-emptive, rather than a tongue-in-cheek jab at our need to label music phenomena, as it tends to come across when played a little later.
'It’s difficult not to feel that you’re witnessing something rather special when you’re surrounded by thousands of young people who are obviously partaking in what is, to them, a kind of spiritual experience'.
This wasn’t the only occasion with provocative visuals, however – their light show is the ace in the hole for Healy and co. The work of designer Tobias Rylander, it’s rare in this world of over-saturated arena touring that I find a band’s stage setup awe-inspiring, but Saturday was such a moment. It consisted of 3 floating cubes, a floating rectangle, and various other strobes and screens. At various points Healy used a treadmill, was cued by images on the screen, and in one memorable moment actually stood inside the back screen. The importance stage design has on their set cannot be overstated, visually distinguishing tracks and providing another dimension to songs that wouldn’t have nearly the same effect otherwise.
Take for example one of the two unreleased songs debuted that night, Guys. It’s essentially a schmaltzy, nostalgic pop song, but it’s written for and about the band themselves; sort of a love letter from Healy to the rest. It wouldn’t have anywhere near the emotional impact it did were it not performed to a backdrop of footage of the band when just starting out. The screens showed a fresh-faced Matty Healy and co. embarking on their first tour and recording their first album with the lyrics projected singalong-style over the top. Despite the perhaps simplistic nature of the track, it hits home, and that’s largely due to the use of the footage.
Elsewhere, the notorious treadmill gets brought out for Sincerity Is Scary, and every screen on stage goes suitably into information overload for Love It If We Made It. For me, the latter was the hardest-hitting track of the night, showcasing Healy’s capabilities as a frontman. He balances it impressively well; for all criticisms of his rampant ego, he really does play the role to a tee. There’s balance in the setlist, both leaning on older, must-play tracks and airing newer material, perhaps more suited to their current stature. Then again, there’s no denying they’re possessed of some bangers in their back catalogue – it’s frankly impossible to resist the urge to dance to Love Me.
'The importance stage design has on their set cannot be overstated, visually distinguishing tracks and providing another dimension to songs that wouldn’t have nearly the same effect otherwise'.
All in all, The 1975 are a band of millennials, for millennials (or indeed Generation Z, or whatever meaningless label you can choose to attach to their demographic). They put on an absolutely jawdropping set that quite frankly reminds you why arena shows exist, so I won’t begrudge them a little ego here and there. They make some of the most necessary, exciting pop around, and when you see the state of the Top 40, it’s impossible not to be glad of that. Thank God that some of our pop stars are dreaming a little bigger than just Ed Sheeran-aping ballads, or trap remixes. The crowd at this show were the future of music: diverse, politically active, compassionate. If The 1975 are the face of this generation, then quite frankly, it doesn’t matter what you or I think of them. The kids are alright after all.