“It’s Just For Us, Isn’t It?” Inside The 1975’s Tiny Manchester Show

A feverish night with Healy & Co.

“It’s good to be home, ladies and gentlemen,” nods frontman of The 1975, Matty Healy, to a small crowd of adoring fans in Manchester’s Gorilla. The tiny show – just over 500 people have made it inside – is part of BRITs Week presented by Mastercard for War Child.

The band have become infamous for their on-stage antics during their At Their Very Best arena tour. Everything from eating raw meat, impromptu tattoos, a kiss from Healy himself – their ‘anything goes’ approach has taken social media by storm. So before the show begins, there’s an air of tension in the room. The very small room. Very very small room. This band are used to selling out arenas, headlining festivals like Reading And Leeds, touring the globe. But what happens when you put them, ego and all, in a tiny venue in their hometown? Nobody in the crowd was quite sure.

There was no support act, unless we count CEO of War Child Rob Williams, who took a moment before the band came on to address the importance of the cause before the band arrived on stage – just as any newcomers to the venue would – to play their self-titled debut album opener ‘The 1975’ as the glow from the distinctive white box, the artwork from this first album, illuminated the band. The group then proceeded to do something, they admit themselves, they had not done in a very long time. They played that 2013 debut album in full. 

From undisputed hits like ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Girls’ to fan favourites like ‘Menswear’ and ‘Robbers’, the band provided a love letter to their first album, an album written in Manchester, about Manchester and now being performed in Manchester a whole ten years later. Healy even takes a moment to acknowledge that ‘The City’ is directly about Manchester, about the street Gorilla is sat on. As he smokes cigarettes and clutches a bottle of red wine, he speaks fondly about how when they wrote the album they were really in their ‘drums era’ and jokes how the band’s drummer, George, doesn’t love playing the album as it’s so drum-heavy. For fans in the crowd who have been listening to this album for ten years – through awkward teen years, wonky eyeliner, heartbreak, and happiness – this is a truly special moment.

The one-off nature of the show, the intimacy, the debut album in full. It all comes together to create a real sense of wonder. Live shows today can often feel a little too polished, the same antics, the same dance moves, the same monologues being made at the halfway point of the show. But it was in the clumsy, under-rehearsed transitions and the slightly impromptu setlist which gave the whole thing a true sense of temporality, of lightness, of standing in a room with 500 people you have never met before, and will most likely never meet again, listening to the music you have all grown up with, performed by the band who means a lot to you. As Healy says himself on stage, after taking a swig from a hip flask: “It’s just for us, isn’t it?”

There is a purity to the whole thing and it’s certain the night provided a challenge for the band also. Used to huge audiences, it would be understandable if there was an awkwardness to the band, being toe-to-toe with fans in such a small venue for the first time in a very long time. But the band ease into the intimate setting quickly and stun the crowd, proving themselves capable of wowing 100,000 people at Reading and Leeds festival, or just 500 in Manchester’s Gorilla.

They finish the set with their greatest hits, everything from ‘Paris’ to ‘Be My Mistake’ to releases from their latest album ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’ like ‘About You’ and ‘Happiness.’ For old fans, for new fans, the setlist had something for everyone.

Words: Grace Dodd
Photography: Jordan Curtis Hughes

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