By Jake Paterson, Co-Deputy Music Editor
The 1975’s ‘At Their Very Best’ tour, off the back of their critically acclaimed album Being Funny in a Foreign Language, has changed the mould for arena shows. Part conceptual theatrical display charting the fragility of modern masculinity and part greatest hits record, it took me days to fully absorb everything that the band managed to put together all under the one roof of the two-tiered house built on stage.
Frontman Matty Healy was born a performer. His repeated references to ‘method acting' suggested that the persona of hopeless romantic come arrogant rockstar wasn’t just played for us as an audience – he lives and breathes the role of leading the UK’s most outlandish and excessive band right now. His character in the first half of the show took on the type cast of an actor down-and-out: drinking wine from the bottle, smoking camel cigarettes and waking around full of abject despair but with intense passion when performing.
Playing almost the entirety of their new album front to back in the first half of the show, Healy’s animation during ‘Looking for Somebody (To Love)’ and the glittering ‘Oh Caroline’ threw the crowd into infectious motion. The brown suit that he came on stage with lasted barely a few tracks before both tie and jacket were nowhere to be seen and his shirt was half-unbuttoned in pure self-indulgence.
So far, it’s alright. Yet the meta-theatricality of the ‘show within a show’ shattered the slick and well-oiled machine as Healy cut the performance, allowing twenty-odd crew members to come onstage and chat to the other members of the band or move instruments around. ‘Reality is very slippery’ he quipped, proceeding then to freeze everyone on stage, leaving him the only one left animated before playing the opening chords to ‘Be My Mistake’.
Away from the character he was playing before this moment, he acknowledged us with true human vulnerability in this song, and as the unfrozen band joined in for the final chorus they come closest to the idea of theatrical catharsis.
Just before the end of the first half we were treated to the melancholic ‘fallingforyou’, cut from one of the band’s 2013 EPs, and the reverb heaven of ‘About You’. If the person who rolled and smoked a joint near me during the last song ‘When We Are Together’ didn’t believe in the side-effects of paranoia, then they were in for an absolute shock for what was coming next.
‘Consumption’, the title of the surrealist performance piece that separated the two halves of music, can truly only be seen to be believed. Over Gustav Mahler’s ‘Symphony No. 5’, Healy ate a slab of raw meat, did shirtless press-ups in front of images of world-leaders, and crawled into one of the screens entirely bathed in static.
Before we had the chance to unpack whatever metaphor we has trying to get across, we were well into the utter jubilation of greatest hits. A reanimated Healy felt every chord as the band ran through ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’, ‘Chocolate’ and ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’. An ego full of hedonistic excess spilled into the audience as Healy expressed: ‘The thing about us? We just keep getting better baby.’
Despite not kissing anyone in the front row during ‘Robbers’, as was customary during the US leg of this tour, the band ran through the second half in rapturous style. Apart from the earnest and deeply moving ‘I Couldn’t be More in Love’, the band’s greatest songs (‘Somebody Else’, ‘Love It If We Made it’ and ‘The Sound’) were delivered with relentless energy.
Closing out with ‘Sex’ and ‘Give Yourself a Try’ had the 135 minute set end in desire entirely fulfilled. Speaking to some people after the show, who had been in the queue since 2pm the day before, said that they were on their way back to their tent to queue for the second night in the same venue.
If that isn’t testament to a band at their very best after 20 years of playing together, I don’t know what is.
Featured Image: Jordan Curtis Hughes
Have you seen The 1975 live?