Surveying the 500 hardcore fans gathered in Manchester’s sweatbox Gorilla, Matty Healy is clarifying The 1975’s decision to play their 2013 self-titled debut album top-to-tail. Standing in front of its illuminated rectangular artwork (referred to as ‘The Box’ by the band’s fandom), the frontman proclaims: “I want to remind you that nostalgia is a sickness. This is not nostalgic. We wouldn’t be doing this if we weren’t only getting really good. We’re just starting to make our best work.”
He’s right. Not only is the show taking place for BRITs Week – where The 1975 have netted three nominations, including an Album of the Year nod for ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’ – they’re fresh off the back of an ambitious, conceptual arena tour that has seen them be joined by high-profile guests (Charli XCX, Taylor Swift, Lewis Capaldi) and generate headlines for Healy’s outlandish on-stage antics.
As they arrive on-stage to their debut’s atmospheric opening track ‘The 1975’ and strike up the clattering intro to ‘The City’, this homecoming date for the Wilmslow band is a chance to witness a back-to-basics full-circle moment for a group that revels in excess. As Healy – smoking a cigarette with languid grandeur and holding a bottle of wine aloft like he’s about to christen a ship – observes before launching into a propulsive ‘Robbers’: “This is really fun. So much less pressure! Have you seen all the stuff we’ve been doing recently? And so much upkeep! I don’t want to do it any more! I just want to do this.”
Although it topped the charts in 2013, ‘The 1975’ proved divisive upon its release, with some critics writing them off as being merely a slick emo-boyband. Tonight’s taut run-through, however, shows the signs of greatness were there in the first place. The atmosphere is predictably electric as The 1975 faithful go wild to the party-starting stalwarts of ‘Chocolate’ and the EP version of ‘Sex’, while also deafeningly repeating each and every word of the deeper cuts back at the band.
“We haven’t played a lot of these songs in a while,” notes Healy. “I’m forgetting the lyrics. Most of you here know I never knew the fucking lyrics in the first place!” After the jittery funk of ‘Talk!’ receives its first airing since 2015, he beams: “This album still slams!”
‘Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You’ – the album’s tender closing track that is performed by Healy solo on piano – provides arguably the most affecting moment of the night. For a provocateur who always looks like he’d require surgery to remove his tongue from his cheek, he chokes back sincere emotion here as a reverential hush descends.
After that, a storming ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’ signals a victory run through the band’s back catalogue that includes ‘Happiness’ and ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ as members of the crowd good-naturedly shout-out requests between songs. “This is not me in character. This is me being normal: I don’t like ‘Milk’,” says Healy, swatting away a request for a hidden track like it’s a pesky fly, before laughing at the pantomime reaction. “I love booing! It’s not going to work.”
This moment marks the only (jokingly) hostile reaction they receive during a special evening: one which demonstrates The 1975 don’t require the meta window-dressing of raw meat-eating and fan-kissing to prove a formidable force in the live arena.
The 1975 played:
‘She Way Out’
‘Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You’
‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’
‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’
‘I’m in Love With You’
‘Be My Mistake’