Live Review: The 1975 // Newcastle Utilita Arena 25.11.23

The 1975 are a live force that you simply cannot ignore – maybe in the past you could’ve dismissed them as a group on the wrong side of the edge, and they certainly push some ideas to their limits, but The 1975: At Their Very Best is, well, exactly that.

Before the grand curtain reveals their new set, Dirty Hit label mate Bonnie Kemplay is given her biggest platform yet as the support act following the Manchester quartet across their entire UK live run. Hailing from Edinburgh, she delivers vulnerable and low-key tracks that fill out a bustling arena surprisingly well – it’s hardly a standard combination, but the throbbing production of cuts like ‘Blushing’ provide sweeping choruses that standout amongst a short set full of promise from a talented artist yet to fully hit her stride.

From there, a discordant playlist cuts into a dramatic dropping of the black shroud covering what is an ambitious set piece framed as a house – as on TikTok, as in reality. The show slowly sparks to life as the sitcom unfolds and the band plus supporting cast take their positions. Matty awakens from his sofa-ridden slumber and a new era of hits begins.

Kicking off their set with a tour through their latest chart-topping LP release, Being Funny In A Funny Foreign Language, an exploration of new material becomes far from a chore when the first track is as slick and addictive as ‘Looking For Somebody (To Love)’. Fortunately, the bangers don’t stop from that point on, and the quickly-adopted hits are effortlessly recited without any intervention.

A grand and natural tone permeates through the pop tracks, with ‘Oh Caroline’ in particular flexing a grounded piano instrumental. Another rich contribution manifests as the lights dim mid-rant and Healy is replaced by Healy Sr; Tim goes on to deliver a gravelly rendition of ‘All I Need To Hear’ before returning to his seat in the bleachers.

Unfortunately for the parents in the room, a remarkably toned-down performance with no real distraction from the music comes to a brutal end as The 1975’s infamous frontman begins touching himself, necking Newcastle Brown Ale and devouring a slab of raw meat – the performance art serves to enhance some messages in his art, but it’s a relief when it ends with Matty disappearing through the TV screen.

London got Taylor Swift, Manchester got Charli XCX, and Newcastle get… Harry Styles? The crowd erupts before Lewis Capaldi’s cheeky mug wraps around the doorway. Safe to say his two-song stint is not a disappointment, though, as he blasts through a cut of the constantly-demanded 1975 deep cut ‘Antichrist’ and rounds off with Swift’s own ‘Love Story’ for good measure.

The 1975 quickly regain stature with the second half of their set, with ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ diverting into a decade-long back-catalogue of huge bangers. ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’, ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’, ‘Robbers’, ‘Chocolate’… it simply keeps on going with few lifeless souls not getting to their feet.

Although Matty Healy is the clear ringleader, the group’s tightness as a foursome (plus guests) cannot be overstated and At Their Very Best couldn’t be further from a one-man-show, as guitarist Adam Hamm proves when he cuts a staged rant off with a seething guitar riff. The power is even placed into the people’s hands in a democratic setlist diversion which results in a rendition of the early cut ‘Menswear’, much to the singer’s own confusion.

Rounding out a 23-song strong concert in what feels all too abrupt an ending, The 1975 show that, despite being around for a decade, they remain more culturally relevant than ever before. A stage not restrained by ego but admittedly partially fuelled by it, the methods may not be ideal, but the diversifying demographic is a proven result of a show that you and the rest of the internet clearly cannot ignore. Despite a neat and tidy album, The 1975: At Their Very Best is a deliberately sprawling and soaring show – and soar it does.

photo credit: Jordan Curtis Hughes

Author avatar
Finlay Holden

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