Few bands can get away with The 1975’s antics. In the hands of lesser mortals, faux-masturbation onstage – while eating raw meat, no less – might be frowned upon. And while Matty Healy’s newfound thumb-sucking habits with the front row might be a bit divisive, they’ve managed to sail through it all unscathed. Tonight seems to illustrate exactly why these potential criticisms seem to bounce effortlessly off their raw hide: The 1975 supply communal endeavour in a way few other modern groups can muster.
The ambitious set-up certainly helps. This time round – At Their Very Best, indeed – The 1975 aim for the theatrical, the stage constructed in a knowingly lush fashion. Matty is able to sprawl across Mid Century furniture, or climb on top of a roof top in their deconstructed household. It’s all very arch, but it’s also sheer entertainment. It’s as deep or as shallow as you want it to be.
The opening section of the set focusses on recent album ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’. At one point, Matty thanks fans for listening, saying “we wrought it all for you…” before adding with a grin: “actually, that’s a lie!” But that bluster gets to the heart of the album, and the connection they have with fans: for all the ego and irony, The 1975 simply don’t exist without them.
‘Happiness’ is a potent early highlight, coaxing an imposing vocal. ‘Sincerity Is Scary’ is riddled with emphasis, while Carly Holt gains an arena-full of cheers for her guest turn on ‘About You’.
The opening segment closes with a triumphant ‘When We Are Together’ before the show falls down a (literal) wormhole. Seated, Matty Healy attempts to muse on the problems facing modern masculinity, and how he’s been both critical and complicit within that. Revealing that he tends to live his life like “everyone else… sat at home, watching shit on TV and wanking” he then does 20 or so push ups – shirtless – before plunging head-long into a wall of blinking television sets, and disappearing from view.
So far, so odd.
And then Taylor Swift appears. Yep, as if the night couldn’t get any more surreal, the reigning queen of pop, the magisterial Tay Tay descends from the heavens, to give ‘Anti-Hero’ its live airing. Following this with a version of The 1975’s own booster ‘The City’, she’s immaculate – even with only two songs, she risks completely usurping The 1975 on their own patch.
Indeed, there’s a palpable switch in energy on the remaining songs. Matty Healy reveals to the crowd he won’t be kissing anyone tonight – out of respect for “the Queen” herself, Taylor Swift. The remaining aspect of the set is packed, utterly packed with bangers. Fan favourites galore produce a finale about as glittering as Tay Tay’s dress. ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ and ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ are stadium level epics, while ‘Chocolate’ remains as infectious as the day it was crafted. Songs like ‘Robbers’ and ‘Somebody Else’ retain their lustre, and the final trilogy – ‘The Sound’, ‘Sex’, and a truly scorching ‘Give Yourself A Try’ – underline the band’s modern classic status.
This isn’t The 1975’s first rodeo. It isn’t even their first show at the O2 Arena. But there remains something undeniably special about this band, for all the bluster, feigned nonchalance, and irony. It’s riveting entertainment, and tonight illustrates that few – if any – of their peers can match them.
Find the 1975’s set list from the O2 Arena HERE.