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Live Review: The 1975 // O2 Arena, London

All too often, bands fall victim to their own success and, coming down from the gargantuan heights of double Brit Award-winning album A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, The 1975 have further to fall than most.

“Let us take you back to a simpler time, the first album,” Matty Healy proposes during the set, ‘ when our issues were more 10-bags & blowjobs’, before launching into the group’s debut hit ‘Chocolate’. The frontman’s nostalgia is not misplaced; despite the group still comfortably riding their ascent in critical recognition, they have grown up a great deal in front of these fans.

The self-titled debut album introduced The 1975 as lovelorn, bratty boys, with album two documenting the group’s world-weariness and consideration for cross-genre pollination. And, in 2018, their third offering took them into new spheres as staunch nonconformists, producing sickly sweet pop tunes through the most complicated of lenses.. or disturbed songs through a poppy kaleidoscope – depending on where you place in the Rorschach test.

So where does album four leave us?

New LP, Notes on a Conditional Form was initially set to be released on 21st February, before being pushed back to April 24th. This means that the band have embarked on an arena tour of the UK, just one year after their previous tour and with only a handful of additional singles to add to their setlist.

It is testament to the fanbase that The 1975 have culminated, that the tour could still go ahead, with a 20,000-strong crowd packing London’s O2 Arena for a second night and losing their shit to the call of WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!, as the group open their set with new(ish) single ‘People’.

The setlist takes generous foray’s into each chapter of the band’s history, benefitting greatly from their consistent run of releasing LPs that are packed with strong singles.

‘Me & You Together Song’ was the first of 2020’s songs to make an appearance, with the track’s Busted-esque delivery only exclaimed by Matty’s outfit, which consisted of an untucked suit and tie in – assumably – an unintentional homage to the What I go to School For video.

Another new one, ‘Guys’, reads as a love letter penned by Matty to his beloved bandmates, and follows a similar, soft-rock sound. Each of these tracks are nothing if not melodic, and interesting in their knowing callback to bands of the early noughties. But so far these safe offerings make it a little hard to see why the new album is taking so long to fine-tune.

There may be a case to direct a similar argument at ‘The Birthday Party’, which was released last week, if it weren’t for how archaically1975 the track is. With an accompanying video that shows the band’s CGI avatars checking in to a retreat to cleanse themselves from the weariness of online life. This song does has a melody that is heavily propped up by previous releases from the band, but is given a real lease of life by the tenderness in which the track is conveyed and the anecdotal lyrics, referencing Pinegrove and Adderall.

There is an overriding feeling in the room, and increasingly so outside of their fanbase, that The 1975 are a band who are not only the mouthpiece, but the informants for a whole class of teenagers who are tentatively stepping out into their own musical wilderness. From twee Pop to Garage, Shoegaze to Rock, this group are introducing a whole generation to the idea that bands can sound like anything and sonic categorisation is increasingly becoming a thing of the past.

Another song that has been debuted during this tour, ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’, shows Matty and co at their best – with a sharp, 80’s-indebted soundbed adorned with lyrics that feel current and catchy, without condescending the listener.

“The next five minutes we can talk,” the frontman reasons with the crowd, almost two hours into the set, ‘don’t shout, don’t heckle’, before Greta Thunberg’s spoken-word piece about climate change is played over the speakers and articulated in writing on the big screens. The singer needn’t have worried about heckles, as the arena fell silent to pay attention to Greta’s message, in a time when a whole generation are feeling evermore educated (Let’s not say woke) and evermore detached from those who came before them.

Familiar as it may be – the cliche of a band becoming preachy megastars – there is a real sense here of togetherness in the room, as progressive ideas are sung along to throughout the show. Be it about climate change, diversity or our misplaced attachment to the online world, The 1975 continue to manifest themselves as a band that hold loyalty, not to the confines of genre, but to a country-wide class of people graduating into adulthood in a conflicted world.

Artists cannot continue to ascend forever, and time will tell where the band go with their next record, but The 1975 are in the best possible footing to capitalise upon the place they have carved for themselves in culture; creating jaded pop anthems for a jilted generation.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Author avatar
Matt Ganfield

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