“This is the biggest show we’ve ever played,” frontman Matty Healy of the 1975 tells the sold-out crowd of Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena. Away from festival performances, he’s not wrong as this Birmingham arena holds a vast and impressive 15,800, and the place is packed in both standing and seating, all with fans who impatiently await the infectious indie-pop sound this Manchester-bred quartet has to offer.
Opening the set is the heavily ’80s-inspired “Love Me,” with its uptempo beats, Healy works the stage with masses of hairography and an array of moves akin to those seen in the video. Its repetitively catchy chorus is the most notable, leaving it stuck in your head for days to follow it is the perfect energetic opener for the band. “Love Me” relays quickly into “UGH!” A anthem for the drug addled, unable to give up—though there is a slightly darker message to this track, it is overshadowed by the snappy melody.
It is clear from their stunning live set up that the band put a lot of thought into creating the most unique live experience. Healy drew a lot of inspiration from Robert Irwin, Dan Flavin and James Turrell, the latter of which played a huge part in the light show the band puts on. While some would consider it pretentious, without it the 1975 wouldn’t have the so entirely memorable light set up they do. Each song has its own synchronized light show, for example “UGH!” is backed by a gorgeous cityscape. Even their set list, sewn intricately together, reflects some of their most creative work as well as pushing out crowd pleasers for those who aren’t totally familiar with all of their back catalogue.
Overall the set flows like waves; the bigger tracks of the night such as “So Far (It’s Alright)” and “She’s American” represent huge waves of pure energy, as no one is able to stay still throughout and the calm of an ocean is represented by the slower tracks such as “Fallingforyou” and “Anobrain.” On a scale, “Paris” falls somewhere in the middle. Though it is a slower track, the way it is introduced hits you like a crashing wave—pulling you under with the reality of how awful the world can be as Healy takes a moment to talk about the recent attacks on Brussels and dedicates “Paris” to the victims of this horrendous attack. Despite the enormity of the room, this performance is much more intimate than the others of the set as it touches something with people and is definitely one of the most memorable moments of the night.
An encore comes shortly after, though it doesn’t follow the typical rules of an encore with one extra song—no. The 1975 are all about going big and they return with possibly the biggest tracks of the night, all four of them. Kicking off is “If I Believe You,” signalling the singers struggle with faith, or lack thereof, and is backed by incredible Gospel singers. They add a little extra, making it translate more seamlessly from how it is on the album to a live setting. Following is their most well-known track “Chocolate” and while some could argue it’s overplayed and tired, it is a crowd pleasure for the most part nonetheless. “Birmingham, I’m going to need you to go mental on this one,” Healy announces before launching into their latest single “The Sound” and the crowd do not disappoint.
Something worth mentioning is how dedicated the 1975’s fan base is: There are a number of people among the crowd attending multiple dates of the tour. Some are shedding tears and some are just screaming every word at the top of their lungs, whichever fan you are—or perhaps a culmination of all three—that dedication is to be admired. It means that no matter who you’re standing next to, a friend or a stranger, you’re all connected for the night and it’s seen in the way groups come together to enjoy their night as a unit when at the beginning of the night they were stood at opposite sides of the arena.
After the explosive release of their second studio album I Like It When You Sleep…, fans were left anxious as to whether or not seeing them live would be just as spectacular. Luckily, for all the fans watching in Birmingham, the 1975 are mesmerising. Each person able to take away something special from the performance and with another U.K. tour set for the end of the year and a promise that more new songs are yet to be played, everyone is left excited for what’s next in store for the foursome.