British pop-rock band The 1975 descended upon Dublin this week as part of their sold-out tours spanning across Ireland, the UK, Europe and North America: TheCity.ie’s Kate Brayden reviewed the band’s career-spanning set and triumphant return to the 3Arena.
The four-piece band who love to blur musical boundaries are back with a bang on Tuesday night to finish the current leg of their UK tour ahead of their forthcoming album release, with impressive tech stagecraft and playful lyrics dazzling their young audience.
Drummer and producer George Daniel, bassist and keyboard player Ross MacDonald, guitarist and keyboard player Adam Hann, and frontman Matt Healy always bring an enjoyable show, both visually and sonically, and their 3Arena show in Dublin is as fun as ever.
While not quite taking themselves too seriously to be accused of pretentiousness, the group always strive to create thought-provoking art. Idiosyncratic lyrics questioning our current society are a common feature – though the band flick back to relatable love songs when it suits them – while embodying playful and personal storytelling.
Only a frontman of Matt Healy’s charisma, talent and charm could round out the varying moods and shifts in pace at The 1975’s gigs. The audience was completely enthralled by the singer, with a younger crowd of predominantly female fans potentially causing permanent damage to my eardrums. I can forgive “fangirling” when a concert is as enjoyable as this one, especially when Greta Thunberg is given a five-minute prerecorded slot to speak.
The band clearly have resonance with Gen-Z, through their quirky, intelligent (and at times confusing) lyrics: the youth like a challenge. Much of the audience know every word to every song, even ones which have only recently been leaked online, and vocalise their love for the frontman at every opportunity.
Healy’s ease onstage is reflected in his attitude toward the media, where he says exactly what is on his mind. It doesn’t always work out in his favour, but his legions of glowing fans embrace his imperfections. Emerging nonchalantly in a black hoodie for the intense opening number (People), Healy says very few sentences for the entire concert, except to request silence for Greta Thunberg’s monologue.
He could slander Michael D. Higgins and his beloved duo of pet Burmese mountain dogs and the crowd would go wild. He could state that the Irish Famine was a myth and the cheers would echo around the arena. The man is bulletproof to this audience, and he knows it. The band follow their opener with a throwback from their debut album, and follow this pattern as the evening goes on. They rarely stay in the past before pulling you back to their future, reminding the crowd of their hits while effortlessly showing their progression.
Despite critics sometimes referring to Matt Healy as “preachy” for his consistent promotion of his personal political and sociological beliefs; his declarations of solidarity with oppressed groups forge a link between himself, his band’s music and their listeners who feel lost in an increasingly polarised, digitised world. He barely hits a dodgy note throughout the entire lengthy set, which continues for close to two hours and features songs from three previous albums and their upcoming venture.
The versatility of the band is shown off with their setlist, which is embellished by stylish, modern graphics which change throughout the night, as well as two dancers (the Jaiy twins). Colourful visuals ranging from the fun and imaginative to iconic and gripping are a core feature of the gig. Images of Grenfell, authoritarian leaders, fossil fuels burning, 9/11 and the body of three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi ensure that the audience’s attention is riveted to the stage at every moment.
Political pop may become its own genre, but this pop-rock band are transcending the boxes they were formerly placed in with their new material. From Nineties pop-punk throwbacks (You + Me Together Song), classic hits (Chocolate, Robbers) to blistering scorchers that encourage the audience to “wake up” to inequalities around them (People, Love It If We Made It), their sound is constantly evolving:
‘I moved on her like a b*tch’, excited to be indicted, unrequited house with seven pools. The war has been incited and guess what? You’re all invited…
Modernity has failed us.’ (Love It If We Made It, The 1975)
Rumour has it their upcoming album, Notes on a Conditional Form, will reportedly contain 22 tunes on its tracklist. Expected on April 24, the fourth body of work in the group’s history is set to alternate the course of their musical journey. NOACF follows the 1975’s third album – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (2018) – and is the second of two albums from their third release cycle, “Music for Cars”. Speaking to Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1, Healy explained that their new album would be inspired by British nighttime culture, describing various references to “the beauty of the M25 and all those lights and going to McDonald’s and listening to garage records in a haze in a Peugeot 206.” Healy later elaborated to Q Magazine, stating that the album has a style similar to English alternative hip hop music group The Streets and British electronic musician Burial.
The band’s latest single, Birthday Party, was released on 19 February 2020. Examining ‘interesting social minutiae of house parties’, Healy created the song with a pretty niche music video. The creative is known for having a heavy role when it comes to the band’s graphics, music videos and album artwork, and the styles evolve with the ever-present quirks of his mind. Directed by Ben Ditto – the psychedelic visuals include digital avatars of the band members, well-known internet memes and artwork by Jon Emmony. Despite the unique specificity of their art, the group appear to have garnered a wide array of fans. Punchy, unapologetic pop tune The Sound fought back against critics and cemented the band as versatile hitmakers in 2016.
The music video was reportedly influenced by the incel culture of the Internet and the viral spread of memes originating on the dark web. In an interview with Dazed, the 30-year-old commented: “I think incel culture reveals a really interesting and scary perspective on men and how they deal with women. It’s a really fascinating world and I’m just interested in how it materialises in pop culture.” The former heroin addict is so open about his addictions, so disarmingly honest and factual about the inequalities that he can’t stop noticing around him and so comically blunt about his own flaws; it’s impossible not to be drawn towards him. He sings of society’s toxic relationship with various forms of excess; be it love, substance abuse, technology, consumption, greed, capitalism and pollution.
The 1975 created their newest album after Healy’s stint in rehab in Barbados, but paradoxically; a joyful sound emerged as a result. Of course, there are references throughout the tracklist to his suicidal thoughts, preoccupation with a warped sense of self in a digital age and a fascination with the internet and his own identity within the world wide web. The rectangle staging changes throughout the gig, and at one point resembles an iPhone with Healy leaning casually against one side. The crowd filmed every millisecond on identical iPhones and Android devices, which was slightly hallucinogenic to observe. Did they realise that their idol is trying to send a pointed message about boundaries and technology? Probably not, but at least they enjoyed themselves.
Environmentalism has recently become a core aspect of the band, with the 1975 working with bonafide Swedish legend Greta Thunberg on a track in July of 2018. The song encouraged their vast array of listeners to join the Extinction Rebellion movement for climate with a stirring monologue from the climate activist. The crowd, unsurprisingly, did not stay silent (as Matty requested), but lifted up their hands and cheered at the end for the cause. The usually loose-lipped Healy was noticeably quiet in between songs, apart from shouting, “Hey, this isn’t a f**king Charlatans gig!” when a rendition of classic football chant “Olé, Olé, Olé” rang out. The teens in the crowd had no clue who the Charlatans were, unsurprisingly.
Support act Beabadoobee is worth praising for creating an intimate atmosphere in preparation for the main act. Gen-Z indie songwriter Bea Kristi – born in the Philippines and raised in west London – is a label mate of the 1975 on Dirty Hit. Her confessional bedroom pop songs and DIY 1990s aesthetic is the ideal touring mate for the 1975, with a balance of indie, rock and pop in the mix.
The buoyant calls for change have hopefully not gone unnoticed by the 13,000-strong crowd. With global political and societal turmoil seemingly everywhere, perhaps the 1975 are exactly the band to both distract audiences with pop-rock entertainment and connect with them on an uplifting, emotional level.