It was a hometown-showdown for the indie-pop four-piece, The 1975, as they conquered the Manchester Arena last Friday. Fresh off the back of their latest album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships also known by the shorter abbreviation, ABIIOR, and just about to embark on the release of their fourth studio album, the Wilmslow boys brought a taste of their globe-trotting tunes back to their city for the adorning crowd.
A relatively quiet murmur of the ‘Love Theme’ gently reverberated around the arena as fans of all ages and genders began to slowly trickle into the floor standing and seats. From the goth girls ‘dressed in black, head to toe’, symbolic of the band’s first single ‘Chocolate’, to the fans whose fashion sense seemed to resonate with the band’s second (incredibly pink) pop album I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful, Yet So Unaware Of It, everyone was ready to see what The 1975 had to bring one year on from their latest visit to the city.
As the ‘Love Theme’ started to transition into a low bass, the lights dimmed, and as tradition, ‘The 1975’ -(ABIIOR edition) flashed up on screens like an important service announcement. The blinking strobe lights mirrored the cheers from the crowd as the foursome strolled onto the stage and assumed their position, before plunging into the first single released since ABIIOR, ‘People’.
It was obvious that this statement track had always taken fans by surprise when it was released late last year. Hopping from happy pop music to almost aggressive punk, the transition certainly had bemused some fans, as they visibly expressed confusion whilst the multicoloured flashing lights reflected back off their faces. But, for others, this new sound for The 1975 was refreshing and still reminiscent of their early EP tracks.
The group set things off to a good start, juxtaposing it straight away with ‘Sex’; an iconic track, which has usually been placed at the end of the band’s set during other tours. Bouncing equally between tracks from all three albums, with a few cheeky first-listens thrown in there off their upcoming album Notes On A Conditional Form, the band truly did perform an eclectic selection of tracks and displayed the depth and breadth of their back catalogue.
As the boxes backdrop cleverly changed mood and lighting between tracks, a warm green and purple glow began to illuminate the stage. ‘We’re gonna play some old stuff tonight too’, frontman, Matty Healy, announced, before the all too familiar bassy-beats of ‘Menswear’ elegantly bounced out across the arena. Taken from their debut album, it’s rare for this track to be played, and for the long term fans of The 1975 this was a nod of appreciation from the band for being there since the start.
Up next was a brand new unreleased track ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’. The ’80s infused up-tempo tune is full of punchy drums and retro nostalgia, as the boxes behind the band mimicked old -fashioned TV-sets. This is definitely some of the best music we’ve heard from them since ABIIOR and we can’t believe they’ve managed to sit on such a bop for so long. They also treat us to another unreleased track ‘Guys’, which is a heartwarming acoustic-led number documenting their route as a band, backed by never-seen-before archival footage of the group at their formation
Fast forward through some incredible classics from the likes of ‘Milk’, ‘Fallingforyou’ and ‘Robbers’, The 1975 took a breather from their set to mark an important cause: climate change. ‘Don’t shout or heckle during this please,’ Matty began, ‘but record it and use social media for good if you want to’. A slideshow of videos and imagery began to flash across the screen, as the familiar voice of climate activist, Greta Thunberg echoed around the arena. The room respectfully fell silent as they listened to the haunting messages about the damages we’re doing to the world, which all seemed plausible until you looked around at all of the thousands of people holding plastic cups who probably arrived to the gig by car, and the standing area which was now littered with a sea of empty plastic cups, and plastic bags tied to railings acting as bin bags…
It’s a great message, undoubtedly, but one can’t help but hear the saying ‘practice what you preach’ spinning around in one’s head. Why isn’t this tour plastic-free? Other concert venues and festivals like Warehouse Project, Parklife and Boomtown Fair have managed to do so; artists like Coldplay have refused to tour to make their latest album zero emissions, so we can’t fathom why The 1975 haven’t introduced anything concrete as of yet. Using one’s platform and playing a speech from Greta is all well and good, but more needs to be done if they’re serious about vocalising it.
Going from a sombre mood, the atmosphere changed dramatically when Matty announced, ‘This song’s about picking weed up from Parr’s Wood’. Diving into ‘Chocolate’, the crowd were sent into a frenzy for the band’s most popular track. Ending on a high and sailing through ‘Give Yourself A Try’, and ‘The Sound’, the crowd erupted for one last time for the buoyant finale. It was a Manchester showcase that will definitely leave the fans hanging on to the memories until the next time and a message to ponder on meanwhile.