LIVE REVIEW: The 1975 @ Arena, Manchester (24/01/2019)

Credit: Promo

Date: January 24th 2019
Venue: Arena, Manchester
Support: No Rome / Pale Waves


The allure of Manchester’s The 1975 is something that has grown at an alarming rate over the past few years. In 2014, the quartet manage sell out four dates at the O2 Apollo in one single headline tour – not bad for a band who at the time had only one full-length to their name.

Needless to say, hometown shows are pretty important to the now international pop-rock superstars, and now at the arena – the UK’s biggest indoor venue – and another few albums under their belt, they’re bringing forth the biggest shows of their career.

First up though is Manila’s No Rome [4] (aka Guendoline Rome Viray Gomez), who The 1975 frontman Matt Healy considers to be “a bit of a muse” of his, and due to working together with the evening’s headliners on a few songs, it makes sense for the Filipino to be on the touring bill. Sadly, what’s drawn attention to him doesn’t.

Rome‘s offerings of hyper-modern pop and R&B is inoffensive and clear cut enough, but that in itself is precisely the problem. Songs like ‘Flowers On My Neck’ and ‘Do It Again’ lack any identity from one another, so essentially you could replace the two aforementioned songs with any of the other five that made the set and the statement would remain the same. It’s all very lifeless, overly slathered in auto-tune, and incessantly dull.

Mancunian gothy dream-pop unit Pale Waves [6] are another band that The 1975 have taken under their wing, and they’re also a little guilty of some of the same flaws as No Rome, but admittedly to a much lesser extent. All of their floaty pop drenched indie rock is very much a replica of some of the cuts from the headliner’s self-titled debut, but that’s not exactly a bad thing.

‘One More Time’ is undoubtedly a bonafide bop, and though it was their debut and breakthrough single, ‘Television Romance’ could still very well be the best song that the band have penned to date. ‘Drive’ brings a more raucous sounding riff to the table too, but other than that, it all bleeds together. What Pale Waves deliver both on record and live is very safe; they don’t do much wrong, but they don’t do much that’s new or exciting either.

Now with a full stage production in tow, with a pair of back-up dancers and even their own treadmill to boot, The 1975 [9] have ascended the ranks at an alarming rate, and frankly they fit snuggly into this highly-esteemed position as one of the biggest bands that the UK has to offer at the moment. Not only that, but, even with the pretentious elements aside – something that the pop-rock outfit are culpable of – what has made them a band that draws the level of attention that they do is that they emit and speak to the modern millennial.

Indeed, right from the get go with set opener ‘Give Yourself A Try’, Healy directly mentions and refers to the disposition of the millennial and baby boomer generations, and later in the set when we reach ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Brain’, he almost literally sinks into the huge screen backdrop to find himself trapped inside the screen of a smartphone. To be clear, these aren’t digs and nor are they praises; they’re simply social and behavioural commentaries.

What tonight’s set also shines a burning light on is just how many diamond sharp hits the band have to work with now following the recent release of their third LP, ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’. ‘Love Me’ and its twangy main riff is slick, ‘She’s American’ is easily one of the catchiest songs of the past half a decade, ‘Girls’ still remains an indie rock hit, ‘A Change Of Heart’ is a selflessly selfish anti-love ballad that reels the room in to sing the lyrics back – these are just a few mere highlights.

Of course, Healy makes good use of the stage treadmill during ‘Sincerity Is Scary’, making it appear like he’s walking along the street with the moving intercity backdrop behind him, and he gets the crowd to vote between ‘UGH!’ and ‘Paris’ (the latter winning) with rapturous applause, though honestly bringing No Rome out to cover one of his own tracks, ‘Narcissist’, is an obscure set inclusion, even if the band do feature on it.

The crowning moments come in the set’s encore, though. ‘The Sound’, with its sheen pop bounce, arguably gets the biggest reaction of the night, complete with the very brief flashes on the stage screens of quotes from poor reviews directed at the band to show they don’t take themselves too seriously, but early singles ‘Chocolate’ and set closer ‘Sex’ also tip the hat to the band’s simpler and more indie rock focused roots.

Put simply, there aren’t really any bands out there like The 1975, at least not any that are both as inviting and captivating as they are, securing a hometown show that signals (more than anything else) that they’re not even brushing against their full potential just yet.