Review: The 1975 @ Arena Birmingham

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The 1975
Credit: Jordan Curtis Hughes

The 1975 returned to Arena Birmingham last night (Wednesday 23rd January) as part of their world tour.

Released in November last year, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is The 1975’s third album from the Manchester four-piece. With the tour continuing across the globe and another album on the horizon for later this year, 2019 is arguably one of the biggest years for the band to date.

Inside the Arena

It was almost surprising how early Birmingham‘s largest music venue filled up ahead of the band’s set time. Prior to the support act of Pale Waves, of whom The 1975’s frontman Matt Healy has championed as one of his favourite bands, the entire standing section of the Arena was full of excited fans eagerly awaiting the night ahead.

As the four-piece support act took to the stage, the reaction from the crowd was the best I’ve seen in a while for as support band. Pale Waves arguably have a very similar vibe to The 1975, so are likely to appeal to the same demographic, but the atmosphere for them was ecstatic; Pale Waves themselves seemed overwhelmed. Lead-singer Heather Baron-Gracie said:

“Oh fuck there’s a lot of you out there!”

If the crowd’s reaction to the support band was anything to go by, I was eager to see how they reacted when the headline act appeared.

The headline act

True to form, The 1975 designed the build-up to their stage arrival in the most atmospheric way possible. The newest album’s version of their self-titled opening track ‘The 1975’ begins with tranquil piano melodies before the electronified vocals interject. As the neon lights flashed up the lyrics “GO DOWN. SOFT SOUND.” word-by-word on the screens, the juxtaposition set the tone for the band’s emergence onto the stage.

Matt Healy bounded onto the stage like an excited puppy, dressed in a striped wooly jumper and red baseball cap. Following his stint in rehab last year, and after a brief personal sighting of him in Amsterdam back in June, this was the healthiest he has looked in a while and it was great to see.

The setlist

They kicked off the show with the first two singles they released from the newest album. ‘Give Yourself a Try’ and ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’. The crowd were singing the lyrics back to Healy as if they were two of the more classic tracks. Despite being relatively new, The 1975 certainly have a knack for creating a catchy song.

Mid-way through the show, after playing a variety of tracks from all three albums, Matt Healy said:

“We have so many songs now, choosing a setlist is hard!”

They certainly included something for all the fans they’ve accumulated since their first EP which was released back in 2012. Whether it be ‘Robbers’ from their self-titled debut album, ‘Love Me’ from their lengthy titled sophomore record (I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it) and most recent single ‘It’s Not LivingĀ (If It’s Not With You)’.

Aesthetics

The stand-out feature from this show was the set and overall design. The only feature that stayed constant onstage was Matt Healy’s leather trousers. Each song came with a completely different design, colour-scheme and graphics. The moving conveyer-belt that was introduced when the band rein-acted the video for ‘Sincerity is Scary’ which involved Matt Healy walking down a colourful street, with a backpack and peculiar beanie hat (both of were present in the performance).

Due to the younger demographic, there were a few cases of incidents within the crowd, rectified by members of the audience working together to gain the attention from the security staff. At one point, they caught the attention of Healy, who swiftly instructed the crowd to make a pathway for the staff to enter the crowd to rescue someone who had fainted.

“Fuckin’ hell, someone needs help!”

I respected Healy even more-so for this act; not only was he fast thinking, he delivered his instructions firm and clearly to the crowd, he put his show on hold and made sure the fan was safe and seen to quickly.

This incident occured as Healy was preparing to serenade a newly engaged couple to ‘Fallingforyou’. He said to the couple:

“Sorry you two, that kind of stole your moment”

Credit: Jordan Curtis Hughes

The encore

As the gig came to a close, the band, of course, didn’t leave without a show-stopping encore. ‘Love It If We Made It’ was the politically-fuelled kick-starter to the finale, which included powerful vocals from Healy accompanied by equally powerful imagery in the graphics. “MODERNITY HAS FAILED US” was plastered on the screens as pictures of war, politics, and disrupt flash on and off the large screens.

The final three songs are arguably tracks that will remain in The 1975’s encore set forever more. ‘The Sound’ is perhaps their most catchy, dance-worthy song which had everyone, including the seated audience, on their feet and jumping around. I was seated and at one point was mildly concerned that the seating area was going to collapse.

Debut album classics ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Sex’ couldn’t not be played as The 1975 bid a fond farewell to their audience.

If the first leg of The 1975’s tour is anything to base the rest of the tour on, they are going to be busy boys, but they looked as though they were having the time of their lives. This happy and healthy era for The 1975 is proving to be the best they’ve ever been.

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Freelance Journalist / Words for Birmingham Eastside / Editor at Eastside Sounds

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