The official Reading Festival 2022 app pings a notification for festival-goers to head over to the Durex tent to pick up their condoms, should they require. Will they be using them for some final night shenanigans? Best of luck to them, all we can say is that quite a few inflated johnnies fill the air while we await the return of The 1975.
It speaks to the free, easy and naughty mood of the evening. The last time The 1975 were here in 2019, making their headline debut between the campaigns for their triumphant third album [‘A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships’] and ambitious fourth record [‘Notes On A Conditional Form’], you could sense that it was a bold bid to prove themselves and capture the zeitgeist. It paid off, and it was monumental, but that’s not what tonight’s about. And despite being drafted in as last-minute replacements for Rage Against The Machine, they’re not here to compete.
“Oh Reading, please welcome your favourite band,” says frontman Matty Healy in full fluid-limbed lounge lizard mode – resplendent in Reservoir Dogs attire and smoking like a chimney as he flirts with Reading en masse. Tonight, The ‘75 are cocksure, confident, and here to make your night. Or, as Healy puts it himself after the one-two punch opening of ‘80s power-smash ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ into the poptastic, Prince-y ‘Love Me’ before unleashing the bubblegum ‘Chocolate’: “It’s. Just. Fucking. Bangers.”
Later in the show, Healy reveals their initial plan for the year was to release new album ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’, do a fresh tour and “keep it clean” before the offer to step in to R+L came in. It was a no-brainer, and they decided: “Let’s do a greatest hits thing”. That’s all you could really ask for. While their previous tours had seen a blockbuster, envelope-pushing eyegasm of a stage production, tonight they’ve stripped things right back. It’s just the band, their image displayed in their original monochrome aesthetic, and some bops. “We gotta replace moshing with dancing, but that’s alright – we can get into it,” Healy continues. “This is officially The 1975 At Our Very Best. Thank you for coming to our show.”
From the pure pop abandon of ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’, the stately ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’, and what Healy calls “arguably the best 1975 song” ‘Paris’, their show starts top-loaded and never really relents. “We just keep getting better; it’s mental,” he shrugs.
As well as tipping his hat to the previous night’s headliners Arctic Monkeys (and the hodge-podge “Doc Martens, fishnets and Tumblr aesthetic” that the line-up invites), he also honours the rap-metal veterans that should have been here tonight, and rights some wrongs of a misunderstood quote he made from the stage at Leeds Festival on Friday. “We’re not Rage Against The Machine, so sorry about that,” he humbly admits. “We fucking love Rage Against The Machine, give it up!” Offering that they would have put a cover of RATM together if they’d had the time, he notes that the idea of rock icon Zack de la Rocha pulling out due to a “gammy leg” is “quite funny”.
“Are you having a good night?” he offers to deafening screams. “Alright!” he replies, “You’re making me feel like a rockstar,” before belting out a Freddie Mercury call-and-response “WAAAAAYOO”, later replacing the callback for “nob” and “COVID”. Tonight feels like a house party for Healy and co. Rollicking among “so many reprobates in one environment,” these are their people. Recent release ‘Happiness’ – complete with Healy’s best wedding singer moves – already lands like a favourite. Upcoming single ‘I’m In Love With You’ also fulfils a similar promise after he vows: “You will know this chorus by the time the song’s finished. That’s the essence of a good pop song.”
There’s a quiet reverence for the sombre ‘Change Of Heart’ as the singer sits on lip of stage, downing a shot and getting lost in the moment before invading the crowd, and the monolithic Radiohead ‘Bends’ era epic of ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ adds a sense of grandeur with tonight showing the many shades of the ‘75 palette with absolutely no fat in the set. “Remember how in 2018 everything was really shit?” the singer asks. “This song is about how’s not got any fucking better,” before rolling into the polemical masterpiece and set highlight ‘Love It If We Made It’. Gnarly punk beast ‘People’ follows, loosening people up for the trio of mega-hits ‘The Sound’, ‘Sex’ and ‘Give Yourself A Try’ to end on an almighty high.
That confidence comes with smacks of self-awareness. “Pretty much all of our songs about about blowjobs; this is the original one,” Healy says of ‘Sex’, after earlier offering to pay any noise violation fines to up the volume as “You need to be able to hear my opinions”. Earlier, he simply delivered: “I know I can be a right dickhead, but I love you guys”. Yes, they’re divisive. No, they’re not Rage Against The Machine. But they know their way around a pop song and putting on a show. Maybe they’ll save the theatrics for the upcoming UK tour this winter that they teased – and we can get to some high concept musings when the new record is out – but tonight, all we needed was a good time.
The 1975 played:
‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’
‘Me & You Together Song’
‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’
‘Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)’
‘A Change of Heart’
‘I’m in Love With You’
‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’
‘Love It If We Made It’
‘Give Yourself a Try’
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