Manchester’s current favourite sons The 1975, have a unique chemistry that only comes when the ensemble know each other inside out.
Still only fairly young guys, the quartet met at High School in Cheshire and have played together musically since back in 2002.
They eventually broke through in 2013 with their # 1 self-titled debut album, and despite no chart-topping singles as yet, their three albums have sold in the shed load and spawned a few hits.
They have two major nominations in the 2019 Brit Awards: For ‘Best British Group’ and ‘Best British Album’ (For “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships”), invited to perform on stage to a TV audience of many millions around the world at the Brits ceremony, to be held at the 02 Arena in London next month (Feb).
The band are currently almost at the end of a nine-date sold-out UK arena tour (plus a Brits Week War Child charity gig in London) and they rolled in to Arena Birmingham last night for show # seven.
Front man Matthew “Matty” Healy, guitarist Adam Hann, bassist Ross Macdonald and George Daniel on drums, joined on stage by two female backing singers, and two keyboard players (one also played sax’).
Prior to their lengthy one hour and 45-minute set, we were treated to not one but two support acts. First up; London-based, Philippine artist No Rome, who is signed to the same label as The 1975, Dirty Hit; and who they have collaborated with on two of his releases. Low lighting set the mood, with a purple backdrop creating a mellow atmosphere. Matty cites No Rome as his “muse”.
Next up, ‘ones to watch’, heavily tipped Manc’ indie rock outfit Pale Waves, formed in 2014 and fronted by singer and guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie, who has some similarities to Paramore’s Hayley Williams as a vocalist.
Heather, Ciara Doran on drums, Hugo Silvani on lead guitar and Charlie Wood on bass, offer up a classy slice of alt’ nu-rock, combined with pop culture influences.
Headliners The 1975 are often associated with a black and white theme, and somewhat of a melancholic persona. But tonight, there was none of that lo-fi moody stuff. It was a colourful and vibrant display. Beginning with a neon and abstract theme on the giant LED screens at the back of the stage.
The production had a very post-modern vibe to it. We got flashing images of modern technology, and bursts of light to match the thematic colour of each track.
Mr Healy’s vocal was quite simply impeccable. The huge PA gear they needed to fill every inch of the arena and the volume required, with bass, drums, guitars, keyboards x 3, saxophone and backing vocals plus programmed tracks, didn’t at any time threaten to drown out his vocals, which can often happen to the vocal in these cavernous arenas.
The four stars of The 1975 were “as one” for the whole set. A smooth as silk unit. Full of fire and energy, and infectious enthusiasm for their day jobs. They created a heady and electric atmosphere…
All 14,500 of us left that venue into the cold January night air, feeling like we had been given 110% value for money, and like we had all been an integral part of the whole experience, rather than a ‘them and us’ situation.
The set had pace and balance, and of course, they gave us the hits, including “Chocolate”, “The Sound”, “Sex” and “Girls”.
There were subtle hints of a theatrical performance, such as Matty changing the top half of his outfit for each song. He even donned his trade-mark hat from the “It’s not worth living, if it’s not with you” video.
Highlights included “Give Yourself a Try” from their current album “A Brief Inquiry into Online Dating” and the final track of the set, “Sex”, from their debut album. I really enjoyed “Somebody Else” from their 2016 album, ‘I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it’.
Matty plugged their impending next album release, “Notes on a Conditional Form”, due to drop in May 2019. The audience was evenly spread across the girls and the boys, actually perhaps even a few more fellas in than ladies.
But the ladies certainly made their voices heard when screaming and squealing over the band’s front man, the son of actors Denise Welch and Tim Healy. Matty dedicated “Falling For You” to a young, newly-engaged couple at the front of the stage. Ahhh…
While the sheer class and quality shone from that stage, and the energy levels never dipped, even on the more laid-back material, it did begin to feel like I was hearing the same, or at least very similar songs more than once in the set.
No encore tonight. The band left the stage with an automated “Goodbye” announcement. Quite a cool and quirky way to exit, in fact.
Their home town crowd will have a ball tonight, if the band are in the same spirits as their second city show last night; before the final date in Sheffield on Friday.
They are booked to appear at Leeds and Reading festivals this summer, after a 22-date jaunt across North America between March and June.
Sports stadiums beckon for this lot if their star continues in the ascendancy. No reason why it shouldn’t and there’s no need for an inquiry into that prediction!
Words: Vicky Thompson
Photos: Jason Sheldon