15 brilliant things about The 1975’s festival set (as witnessed at Madrid’s Mad Cool)

"The 1975, from Manchester", played on Saturday night at Madrid's Mad Cool Festival and it was bloody great, of course. But what was most great about it? This stuff...

The sheer cleverness of the stage set

Anyone who witnessed The 1975’s UK arena shows last winter will know that the production was ground-breaking. For festivals, they’ve created a slimmed-down version that somehow achieves a similar effect, with a large screen behind the band and a vertical, hollow oblong with screens on each edge mid-stage. The clever part? That central screen is the perfect shape and orientation for your Instagram Stories, of course.

Mad Cool The 1975

When Matty pitches his rabbit hat to a fan

During ‘Sincerity Is Scary’, Matty dons the rabbit hat and backpack from the video (as debuted on the band’s 2018 NME cover) and mooches about at stage front as a New York streetscape scrolls behind him. On Saturday, the hat lasts about 30 seconds before Healy takes it off and wazzes it to a fan on her friend’s shoulders in the crowd. And it was the perfect throw and catch, meaning Healy may look towards a career in the England cricket team should the pop biz chew him up and spit him out any time soon.

Every saxy moment

Particularly in ‘She’s American’, when the pop onslaught comes to a pause and the sax player (touring keyboardist and long-haired woodwind-snogger John Waugh) lets rip like Gerry Rafferty ridin’ the Bakerloo line.

When Matty tries to explain Englishness to the Spanish

‘Love Me’, from 2016’s ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’ album was always meant to be a piss-take of celebrity culture, but as ever with The 1975, there are layers. It both is and isn’t a serious reflection of Matty Healy’s personality. So now, when they play it, Matty tends to introduce it with a disclaimer beforehand, telling the crowd that he’s not being entirely serious. Or entirely unserious. Then he wiggles his bum and struts around stage to it giving it the full Michael Hutchence.

At Mad Cool, his introduction went thus: “We know what it’s like to be embarrassed, because we’re English that’s what we do. What I do in my shiny shoes and my red trousers and my shirt like this, it doesn’t come easily but someone’s got to do it… So I’m in a bit of a predicament: I don’t know how seriously I – or one – should take myself. Anyway, this song is about that.”

About two minutes later, when he’s singing on his knees, he realises he’s dirtied the aforementioned red strides. “My fucking trousers!” he exclaims, dusting them down. “Hann [guitarist Adam]! Distract them!”

When Matty does a Robyn and dances on his own

At their bigger shows, The 1975 are accompanied by dancers Taitlyn and Kaylee Jaiy. Tonight, it’s just the band.

“I miss the twins,” Matty says during ‘It’s Not Living’, realising he’s the only one doing the routine.

When Matty really wants his wine

During his introduction to ‘Love Me’: “Can I have wine please?”

After, when his wine still hasn’t arrived: “Can I have some wine PLEASE! Fucking hell, I’m working hard here!”

There’s a cheer from the crowd when it finally arrives.

The ‘selling petrol’ moment

A lyric in ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’ has acquired cult status among fans, thanks its not-entirely-necessary pay-off “But he works in a petrol station – SELLING PETROL”.

As such, audiences chant the lyric back at the band and Healy, who clearly enjoys this, now counts them in on his fingers.

When Matty addresses the elephant in the, er, field

“Whoever fucking put my band on at the same time as The Cure needs a fucking slap,” says Matty, at one point. “Shout out to The Cure, greatest of all time.”

Yeah, they’re up against The Cure, who, from Matty’s vantage point on the stage, you can just about see performing on the main stage. And The Cure are bloody massive in Spain.

READ MORE: NME’s mega-exclusive interview with The Cure

Later, he reassures the ’75 faithful who’ve chosen them instead of Robert Smith and co that they won’t miss the hit-packed run at the end of The Cure’s set.

“We’ll finish before the last 25 minutes of The Cure, cos we all know that’s when he’s gonna do the thing,” he says. “It’s alright, I’ll be there as well.”

The whole of ‘I Like America & America Likes Me’

For a set heavy on laughs, this is a stunning, stark and serious moment. The band perform the track with the disquieting lyrics flashing up behind them, including the brilliant “kids don’t want guns, they want Supreme’.

When Matty sings stage banter through the autotune

Having threatened to jump into the crowd, he says, “There’s too many girls, I don’t wanna hurt you,” through the autotune mic, which makes it robot-y and musical so it sounds like an impromptu Kanye song.

The whole of ‘Love It If We Made It’

The towering song from 2018’s ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’ is a stunning moment in The 1975’s live show, and an uproarious shout-along from the crowd considering the real-world horror of its lyrics.

The Bends-era Radiohead-iness of ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’

Do not go to the bar or the toilets when Matty gets his acoustic guitar out. That’s a sign the band are about to do ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’, their homage to overblown ‘90s alt-rock, and a glorious singalong moment (for those who can reach the high notes).

The way Matty Healy introduces first album material

As so: “Let’s take you back to a simpler time, when my problems were less geopolitical and more blowjob-specific.” Ahh yes, simpler times indeed.

The 1975 tend to stick ‘Sex’ and ‘Chocolate’ into every show. Even people who were sniffy about the eponymous first album when it came out in 2013 now tend to admit that these two are absolute bops.

When Matty and the screen say “fucking jump” at the same time

In ‘She’s American’, Matty asks for a bit of crowd participation, getting the audience to all jump at the same time. A moment of unscripted bonhomie? Absolutely not: the big screen and Matty both say the same thing: “FUCKING JUMP”. Meta.

When Matty reveals his TV habits

“You’ve made tonight amazing,” he tells the crowd. “And Love Island is not on tonight, so it’s hard to make it amazing.”

Then we all we went to see the end of The Cure.