Live Review: The 1975 @ The O2 Arena, London

It’s a strange culture that we live in today when it comes to music. There’s an older generation – ‘boomers’, if you will – that will say they don’t know anything about current music or that it isn’t the same as it was “back in the day.” Then there’s a group of younger people who see a band like Rage Against The Machine get announced as the headline act for the Reading & Leeds Festivals alongside Stormzy and Liam Gallagher, and wonder who the hell they are.

Then there’s The 1975, a band who have filled London’s O2 Arena for second night in row with everyone from teens at the front who clamour to get as close to them as possible for the perfect Instagram-worthy photo, right through to audience members in their thirties, forties and fifties who stand at the back and admire the dazzling pomp of their stage show. In the seven years since their self-titled debut album, its amazing to see how much the Manchester band who started out singing about “blowjobs and ten bags,” as Matt Healy proclaims before one of their encore tracks, Chocolate, have grown up.

They launch into their set with People, a cacophonous punk rock barnburner unlike anything else from their catalogue and lead single from their now-delayed fourth album, Notes on a Conditional Form. Had the album been released on the original date, tonight’s set may have had a very different feel. Devotees who attended their tour little over a year earlier will have already seen this stage production as it was identical to the last time, and the new songs from their forthcoming album may have got a bigger reaction had their audience had a chance to spend more time with them prior to the show. The crowd still sing every word of Me & You Together Song back at Healy, and when the lyrics appear behind them for the ‘80s pop-rock worship of If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know,) it doesn’t take long for several thousand voices on the floor to join in.

Where the beauty lies in The 1975’s music is that no two tracks sound the same, but it works and flows seamlessly throughout the set. Their breakthrough single, Sex, is still delivered with the youthful urgency of the indie bands that paved the for them and sits perfectly next to the brash bubble-gum pop of TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME. Ever since they embraced their penchant for pop music on the 2016 album, I Like It When Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It, everything they do makes sense within their world. Yes, there are moments where it borders on self-indulgence and becomes the Matt Healy show, particularly during the disco swagger of the ode to, well, himself, Love Me, but it’s all part of their charm. Healy has gone from being the poster-boy of self-loathing with Somebody Else, to the new voice of a youth movement on Love It If We Made It that want to fight for change and the betterment of future generations. He has earned the right to shout about himself in however way he sees fit.

You could spend forever picking apart the nuance in their music, wondering how a grandiose ballad such as I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes) is by the same band that flirt with RnB beats, programmed drums and perfectly placed autotuned vocals for I Like America & America Likes Me and Frail State of Mind, but it’s a lost cause at this point. Even during the thumping closing track, The Sound, they flash up a litany of messages and quotes that their detractors have said about them, standing defiantly against the critics that claimed they were nothing more than ‘Terrible high-pitched vocals over soulless robo-beats’.

One of the most appropriate messages displayed behind them during their set is ‘Rock and Roll is Dead, God Bless The 1975’. It’s hard to argue that statement, as this is 2020 and music doesn’t need to be homogenised, categorised, defined by the past or how anyone expects it to sound. That’s what The 1975 are here for, and will continue do so well all the time people are prepared to listen.

 

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