You’d be forgiven for thinking that The 1975 might be suffering from tour fatigue given the endeavours of the last year. In actual fact, they’re so psyched to be back home that Matty has sustained a rock ’n roll injury, and takes to the stage armed with crutches. “I got overexcited about this gig,” he explains, “I’ve got a gammy foot”. It doesn’t stop him, mind; here he is prowling the stage, tongue wagging like Ace Frehley, there he goes moonwalking along his treadmill, and at one point, clambering behind the drum riser and actually into the backdrop screen, guitar slung to his knees and ready to shred in ‘Lostmyhead’.
The crowd are similarly primed for Friday night. “That song’s not even out yet. You’re mental.” reflects Matty on the, frankly, bonkers reception to next single ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’. I mean, give us a break, because the song in question is just ridiculous. All Tears For Fears via ‘Girls On Film’ and John Hughes, ‘Too Shy’ is a laser-guided precision hit, a dizzying dopamine surge chased by the most high-kicking sax solo since ‘Waiting For A Star To Fall’. No wonder its indelible chorus is already hard wired into the synapses of tonight’s boisterous following.
Elsewhere from the upcoming ‘Notes on Conditional Form’ we get ‘Guys’, an elegy to youth and hope and friendship, its complimentary visuals signposting Wilmslow station and bits of Alderley Edge, while ‘The Birthday Party’ is all psychedelia and ukulele. Both are ethereal slow-burners and, when placed in context alongside precursors from the back catalogue (‘Fallingforyou’, ‘Menswear’), the shared genetic fingerprint of the early EPs and ‘Notes’ starts to become more apparent.
The stage set too has metamorphosed since they were here last January, with content beaming from every surface. A particularly ebullient ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’ sees the band beamed up by hovering Rubik’s cubes, the shoegazey ‘Me & You Together Song’ comes embellished with Global Hypercolour visuals. There are blue screens of death, hilarious memes (“BE GONE, THOT”), and an endless assault of references and images from the bleeding edge of the digital age. This is a band fully steeped in their duty to both assimilate and communicate the culture in which we exist.
There’s no Greta Thunberg tonight, as had been rumoured, but her presence is keenly felt as the set juxtaposes the geopolitical (her take on ‘The 1975’) and the local (Matty introduces ‘Chocolate’ with “this one is about driving to Parrs Wood to get a ten-bag…”). ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ and its widescreen, bittersweet optimism is explicitly dedicated to Manchester, ‘Love It If We Made It’ to “the state of the fucking world.”
And let’s be honest, who else is trying to say these things? For when we reflect on the cultural history of the last decade, the record will state that these guys pretty much stand alone in having risen to their responsibility: the responsibility to catalogue the times we live in and use their platform to not only positively influence the cultural landscape, but also to nurture, and take care of and rally for the generation they represent.
Tonight, Manchester is proud to count them as sons. They deserve a summer studded with career defining, heart-bursting live shows; a final giddying, joyous chorus. And then – at long last – a chance to breathe.