Even those with a limited interest in The 1975 have surely seen frontman Matty Healy make headlines since the start of their At Their Very Best tour in America. From getting tattooed on stage, kissing fans and eating raw meat, his name has been all over the internet.
To a sea of screaming fans in a sold out AO Arena, the Manchester based band brought a brilliant mix of songs off their latest number one album, Being Funny in a Foreign Language, and their ten year back catalogue.
Kicking off their set, the band members walk onto the stage decorated as a vintage house with their names rolling on screen, echoing the vibe of a 1980’s sitcom. Then, Healy crawls out of a sofa, yawning, before heading to the piano to light his characteristic cigarette.
The set was split in two, starting off with songs from their latest album, including fan favourites like Oh Caroline, I’m In Love With You, and Part Of The Band, mixed with a few older songs. Throughout the entire set, the focus is on Healy, stumbling around with a bottle of wine, cigarette in hand. At points you forget where you are and think you’re watching some bizarre West End show, starring a drunken but loveable lead.
There is no doubt Healy is one of the most charismatic frontmen of our time. From talking to himself, dancing Elvis style, and appearing on the roof of the ‘house’ for I Like America & America Likes Me, the show within a show adds a magnificent layer to an already great performance.
Throughout the first half of the show, the stage is constantly swarmed by stagehands in white coats changing and moving props, adding to the feeling that a live sitcom is unfolding in front of you. As the first half of the set ended, the band exited the stage one by one, turning off the lights and closing the windows, leaving Healy alone on stage.
This is where the real fever dream begins as he sits on a leather sofa, unbuttoning his shirt and rubbing his groin. He continues to crawl around the stage, while television screens display the likes of Rishi Sunak, Andrew Tate, Vladimir Putin and Margaret Thatcher, as he is served a plate of raw meat which he proceeds to eat. After a few bites of the raw steak, he crawls into one of the televisions and disappears.
Fans who caught the band performing at O2 in London were treated to surprise guest, pop superstar Taylor Swift. Her live debut of her hit Anti-hero, along with a cover of The 1975’s The City left Manchester hoping for a surprise to equal that of the capital. This was provided by English singer, Charli XCX, who complemented the 1975’s nostalgic setlist with an energetic performance of Vroom Vroom.
As the band reemerge on stage for the second half, all dressed in black suits, the ‘Very Best Of’ part was much more a concert in the traditional sense. Matty Healy finally interacts with the crowd and the fever dream sitcom is over.
Kicking off with fan favourite If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know), before playing some of the band’s biggest songs like Chocolate, It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You) and Robbers. This half really cements The 1975 as one of the biggest bands of our era, delivering hit after hit of masterclass live music.
At the end of the 24 song set, I was treated to my personal favourite as the penultimate track, Sex, before a triumphant exit to Give Yourself A Try. As the band exited the stage, the show ended with Healy killing the main switch, turning the stage black.
The 1975 really brought their very best to AO Arena, and proved that they are one of the greats of our generation. But does being one of the greats come at the cost of being “chronically online”? Reviews of the 1975’s tour spoiled most of the setlist and Healy’s bizarre behaviour.
If eating raw meat onstage is no longer a shock, how much can Charlie XCX genuinely surprise an audience? Although the performance was a pleasure to watch, the surprises lacked force. Thankfully, the quality of music, the set, and the energy made up for limited shock value.