It’s a pessimistic way to start a review, but most concerts aren’t ‘special’, it’s a fact.
When a circuit act, doing the rounds of middle England, perform an not-quite sold out show on a Tuesday night, it isn’t special; it can be important to handful of people in the crowd – which is great – but that doesn’t make it a special performance.
When a band, who are midway through a transformation into becoming the most important of a generation, headline the festival they have been watching since childhood; it is special.
In the past twelve months, The 1975 have come to represent something within music, and within culture generally. The group have embraced a musical climate that has a rapidly crumbling partition between genres [see their two most recent releases; a spoken word piece about climate change & an aggressive, distorted rock tune], as well as taking on the mantle of being a modern, ‘woke’ band – conducting each of their releases with the highest level of unashamed rock-star arrogance, met with de-weaponising self-awareness (somehow?).
“The reason we’re doing it is I need to headline Reading and Leeds festival, because we went there as fans when we were kids,” frontman Matty Healy told NME in 2018. “Every time I [play] it, it’s like I might as well have just been there in the pit, jumped over the barrier and grabbed the mic. That’s how I feel at that festival.”
The 1975’s set opened with the arena illuminated in a shocking yellow glow, whilst screens glitched in and out of clarity, before the group purposefully took to the stage for the live debut of new track People – released earlier this week.
The opening song was accompanied by visuals of fleeting lyrics and graphics, all matched to the bright yellow aesthetic.
The Manchester 4-piece performed many tracks from their most recent album, the critically acclaimed A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships; with Give Yourself a Try, TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME, Sincerity is Scary and It’s Not Living (If it’s Not With You) all featuring in the first six tracks of the set.
“I’ve never felt more affiliated with an audience in all my life,” Matty states after It’s Not Living. Judging by the audible reception from the crowd and the sea of teenage faces looking back at him – stood on the same ground that a teenage Matty once stood to watch his favourite bands – it feels fair to say that his affiliation is reciprocated. 90,000 times over.
“Let’s all be rock stars in our own minds,” the singer continues, before the intro to 2015 single Love Me.
The 1975 offered a short taste of new music midway through the set, as Healy name drops the forthcoming album, Notes on a Conditional Form, before launching into a groove-heavy instrumental track, which paired the group’s penchant for atmospheric synths, with a thumping drum beat.
Towards the end of the evening, the recent eponymous track – featuring the voice of activist Greta Thunberg reciting a spoken-word piece on climate change – was played through the Reading sound system, with each lyric pasted on the vast screens amidst cheers of agreement from the young crowd.
The band then resumed their set, to close with Ivor Novello-winning song Love It If We Made It, followed by Chocolate, Sex and The Sound; each of which drew a genuine sense of climax and euphoria from the audience.
In any unashamedly glowing review, this paragraph would generally be reserved for a touch of reality, or the proposition of an idea where the evening could have missed potential. Sometimes, however, the right artist gets booked for the right gig at the right moment in time and critique of any kind almost seems irrelevant, so let’s just call this performance ‘special’.