It’s the third of The 1975’s four nights at Manchester Apollo, but because of confusing additional dates, it is as Matt Healy says, “the one that sold out first”. I love seeing a band come back to do a big hometown show, and when it’s my hometown it’s even better.
A very diverse crowd already fills the room as first support Y.O.U come on; it’s an odd mix of old fans, parents and dressed up teenage girls. It took me a long time to find Y.O.U on the internet – probably because they’re quite new and have an awful band name – but the more and more these guys played, the more I wondered why on earth they’re supporting The 1975. It would be rude but honest to say that a lot of the set didn’t even sound like music. Bass that was literally shaking me (and I swear gave me heart palpitations) with some airy, undefinable lyrics. That was it. Sometimes if the music is bad at a gig you can enjoy some on stage aesthetics, but a thick fog of smoke across the entire stage didn’t allow that either. Just dreadful really.
Another boring half an hour passes waiting for Circa Waves, although it was less painful than listening to Y.O.U, and the Liverpool boys appear. It’s been a great year for Circa Waves and it’s not undeserved. The band knock out tune after tune after tune; the foot stomping ‘Young Chasers’, energetic ‘Good For Me’ and ‘Stuck In My Teeth’ which is simply one of the best indie pop songs released this year. Circa Waves just make fun music to dance to. Comparisons to The Libertines or Arctic Monkeys may be a bit farfetched lyrically speaking, but you just can’t resist their spirited guitars and feel good rhythm.
It’s approaching the time for the headline act to grace the stage and it becomes clear to me how much of the 1975’s fan base is pre-pubescent girls when Matt Healy walks onstage. I’ve honestly never heard loud, high pitched screaming to that degree in my life. Luckily I’ve never been to a One Direction or old time Beatles concert to hear such outrageous sounds but it was just ridiculous. Image is a big thing for The 1975 and while I hope the band’s focus on their visuals doesn’t take anything away from the music, I do enjoy the sharp black and white lighting looks. Healy and co. are in their uniform – all black – and start off the set with ‘The City’. Pulsing drums and synths with Matt Healy’s passionate vocal really is a great start to the show, and there’s no denying that the crowd literally went wild.
After wonderful renditions of ‘Settle Down’, ‘Heart Out’ and ‘Pressure’, the band decide to give the bouncing crowd a rest. “How many of you have never seen us live before?” Healy muses to his adoring fans, all rapidly snapping the singer as he swaggers up to the front of the stage. “That means you’ve only ever seen us through a screen,” and so the frontman kindly asks the crowd to put away their phones “so I can see your beautiful faces” – he’s a charmer. Although it is common for older and more established artists to request this of fans – e.g. Prince, Kate Bush, Neutral Milk Hotel – it’s not expected of such a young band and I really do respect that. 13 year old girls at gigs record every second on their iPhones so stopping that for just one song was really refreshing.
The crowd go crazy for ‘Girls’, the lights fade down and there’s a short break until the Manchester boys are back to incessant screams for an encore. It’s slightly unorthodox to leave your three most popular songs until the encore, but surprisingly it was really cool just to hear the band go straight from ‘Robbers’ to ‘Chocolate’ and into ‘Sex’. ‘Robbers’ was almost like an out of body experience live. I’ve never rated it as such a great song, but live it really did come to life. The emotion in every member of the band’s performance was just unbelievable. Despite Matt Healy’s new self-important onstage persona – presumably created by his increase of obsessive fans – it hasn’t changed the commitment to his performance – “now everybody’s dead, and they’re driving past my old school” – I felt every word. The band then go on to play ‘Chocolate’ and then ‘Sex’ perfectly. Despite the fact that all the detail and intricacies of these songs can’t really be heard live, just the vigour and flair of The 1975 made this gig a really special one.