Inside The 1975’s intimate War Child show for 500 lucky fans

The band played at London's Tufnell Park Dome last night (February 21) for the charity's Brits Week gigs

When The 1975 began their campaign for second album ‘I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It‘, they did so with an “intimate” tour that included a date at London’s Eventim Hammersmith Apollo. A venue with a capacity of 5,039 might not be all that intimate to most, but for a band who are now consistently selling out 20,000 cap arenas, that’s about as up close and personal as you could hope to get.

Except for tonight. Tonight, Matty Healy, Ross MacDonald, Adam Hann and George Daniel stride onto the stage at The Dome in Tufnell Park in front of only 500 fans. The screams that greet them are just as deafening – if not more so – than in those huge spaces they’ve become accustomed to – and these fans will scream for anything. Labelmate and former support act The Japanese House playing on the PA? The beginning of album-opening track ‘The 1975’? A flicker in the stage lighting before the band appear from backstage? All receive a response that make your eardrums feel like they’re about to rupture.

Given the size of the show, it’s no surprise to see the band without their now iconic four pillars that house lush pastel colours and arty projections throughout the set – there’s simply no space. While any show with them in the background is a visual feast, tonight shows the band don’t really need them – The 1975 are just as captivating without the fancy production as they are with it. At other shows, your gaze is torn between the backdrop and Matty. Tonight, your eyes are firmly glued on him – his furious gestures to his crew to bring him a glass of red wine during ‘Love Me’, how he recreates the choreography from the video for ‘A Change Of Heart’, when he spots fans filming in the front rows and dances and poses for their cameras.

Clearly he, and the rest of the band, are enjoying being back in a venue this small. “This is fucking wicked,” Matty tells the crowd after ‘Love Me’ kicks everything off. Two songs later and he’s pausing again. “How fun is this? This is all just individual people rather than just a mass.” Shortly after, right in the middle of ‘A Change Of Heart’, he’s caught up in the moment again. “I love you!” he declares between verses.

Despite the positivity, there’s still room for some classic Matty sass. Moments after shouting out “the hardcore” who’ve made it down tonight, chants erupt for the song fans want to hear next. It’s hard to make out exactly what they’re chanting for, but Matty shuts them down quickly. “Shut the fuck up, I decide what we’re playing thank you very much,” he says firmly. Seconds later, he’s wearily telling a group at the front “I can’t hear you when you’re all talking at once”, like a teacher who’s nearly at the end of their wits. Then he catches a story about a couple getting engaged to ‘Paris’ and the light comes back to his face. “Congratulations on marriage,” he says, introducing the next song. “This one’s about a devastating break-up.”

He’ll later apologise that the set isn’t “as polished as it usually is because we’re a bit pissed and there’s only a few of you”, but the less-than-slick feel makes sense in a venue like this – tired-looking bar to the side, floor sticky with spilt drinks. It feels like a celebration of where The 1975 came from, but also as if we’re back in the time before they achieved phenomenal success and are still a band on the cusp. Garish white lights flash over them during ‘Sex’ and for three minutes it feels like you’re watching a band on the rise playing any one of the many dingy venues on the toilet circuit, full of possibility and potential and excitement.

Of course, The 1975 are way beyond that now. They might be teasing another relatively intimate summer show, but they are bona fide superstars with the biggest festival headline slots in their crosshairs and stadium shows in their not-to-distant future. Closing track ‘The Sound’ is an unmissable reminder of that. “On the count of four, we’re gonna break this fucking building down,” commands Matty before the breakdown, sending every body in the room bouncing up and down as high as they can. Imagine that happening on a muddy night down Worthy Farm – it’s really not that far off becoming a reality.