It’s about two hours before stage time and London’s O2 Arena is already packed. Gangs of teenagers are marauding their way around the venue, clutching bags full of merch, wearing t-shirts emblazoned with slogans pilfered from Matty Healy’s notebook, photocopied from The 1975’s album sleeves.
The Millennium Dome? Pfft, this lot have no conception of the 20th century as they were born well after it coughed its last.
Packed to the rafters for support acts No Rome and Pale Waves – tonight is a show of strength from Dirty Hit, after all – the arena reaches capacity well before The 1975 take to the stage, the gentle click and flash of mobile phones permeating as the O2, as thousands upon thousands of selfies make their way to the web.
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And then it begins. After a spell of drifting modern classical piano The 1975 emerge to a wall of screams, a tidal wave of hysteria. ‘Give Yourself A Try’ is a bold, brilliant starter, the band’s hyper-plastic melody lines given full physicality when sung back to them by one of the biggest venues in the land.
‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ is coy, flirtatious, Matty Healy’s stage presence somewhere between a preening rock god and an overgrown adolescence. It’s something he plays with throughout: at some points channelling Michael Hutchence or Jim Morrison, and at others literally stumbling, grinning wildly at his own incongruence.
‘She’s American’ feels bold, living up to its wild ambition, while ‘Love Me’ and ‘Sincerity Is Scary’ provide that direct link between band and fans as the O2 unleashes itself to frenzy. But it’s not all arena bombast: The 1975 are masters of dynamic, able to drop the tempo – on a lush ‘Loving Someone’ or an opaque rendition of ‘A Change Of Heart’ - or throw out the rulebook all together.
After all, who else would stop a sold out show in its tracks to cover the support act, as The 1975 did when they invited No Rome onstage to perform ‘Narcissist’? Or even introduce those interludes, moments of challenging and often near-ambient musicality, a different universe from the taut, snake-like digitalism of their potent hits.
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‘Robbers’ has the crowd on their feet, with Matty Healy reaching outwards for ‘I Like America & America Likes Me’. Ending with the curiously fatalistic release of ‘I Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ the band return to the stage for a clipped, driven, intense encore, launching with ‘Love It If We Made It’ before diving into early single ‘Chocolate’.
Finishing with the explosive one-two of ‘The Sound’ and ‘Sex’ it’s an exhausting, draining, exhilarating experience. The 1975 seem to recognise that if pop stars are indeed the new rock stars, well they’ll just have to master both. Wearing their irony as a pose of deadly seriousness, turning revolt into style while remaining perilously goofy, it’s a humane, hubristic, confusing, and wholly gripping experience.
The night, though, truly belongs to the crowd. Matty Healy tells them throughout that he loves them, and this bond is clear, direct, and always visible. When the energy sags the crowd lift it; when Healy reaches out they’re ready to catch him.
The 1975 are this curious Venn diagram of 2k19 adolescence; a selfie-screen illuminated to arena-sized proportions. Love them or loathe them, this band speak for countless millions, a cypher for the immortal confusion of the teenage experience. This is their time.
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Photo Credit: Lauren McDermott
The 1975 will headline Reading and Leeds festival this summer (August 23rd - 25th).
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