Headlining their biggest UK show to date, The 1975 played the 02 Arena in London on Thursday night with support from fellow Dirty Hit signing The Japanese House. After an extremely successful year on the back of another number one album, a Mercury prize nomination and a BBC philharmonic live lounge, it seems The 1975 have nigh on conquered the world. With the accolades to show, the intelligence and charisma of a relevant artist, and the style to polarise opinion, the band has everyone talking. Now approaching 2017, it seems the group are taking a year off in the studio, but extensively touring globally to give fans an authentic live experience. On the second date of the tour, where else makes sense besides London’s biggest arena?
Prior to the headline show, The Japanese House, AKA Amber Bain, showcases her unique ambient synth-pop style, reminiscent of early The 1975. Recently shortlisted by the BBC as one of the acts to watch in 2017, The Japanese House is an intriguing project to say the least. Trippy, heartfelt and soul shaking, Amber’s vocals are unforgettable, and when fused with the enigmatic instrumental background, something beautiful is created. Playing a selection of tracks from her three EPs, Amber demonstrates the exact reason why her name is destined for great things.
The 1975 take the stage after an elongated drone siren rallies the crowd. Matty is dressed as fashionably as always, rocking a tuxedo accompanied by a pair of slippers – he looks like a dishevelled schoolboy, and the crowd love it. Beginning with their renewed introductory track, and bursting into ‘Love Me’, everyone is on their feet as the night is finally under way. As the track comes to an end Matty screams ‘fuck me!’ in awe at crowd, before the slick synths of ‘UGH! begin. Followed by old gem ‘Heart Out’, it seems the band are planning to play a mix of old and new material, and everyone’s silent fear has been quelled. As the hit comes to an end, Matty states ‘this one of the best moments of our lives’, and after only four songs, one can already see he means it as he stares up in bewilderment, wondering how his band really got this far.
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Continuing with the love lost ‘A Change of Heart’ Matty sings directly into the camera as fans scream along in unison before a catchy guitar loop. Fittingly followed by ‘Robbers’, the arena is in uproar as the melancholic ballad builds to its ferocious ending: ‘Now everybody’s dead, and they’re driving past my old school, and he’s got his gun and he’s got his suit on, and she says babe ‘you look so cold…’ – undoubtedly one of the highlights of the night for the hardcore.
What else makes The 1975 such an astounding band to play live is their exclusive lights show. Exemplified when they play the title track of their second album ‘I like it when you sleep…’ multi-coloured lights flow through the stage’s backdrop and hazy fractals of the band up close are displayed on screen. One of their most experimental efforts to date, the song live sounds like something Jamie xx would release, and signifies a momentary rebirth for the band from their poppy sound. Perhaps a sign of things to come on the third record? One can only hope.
Attempting a gig as big as this, Matty reveals the band want to play some old songs as they triumphantly tear through ‘M.O.N.E.Y’, ‘Undo’ and ‘Milk’. As the energy settles the frontman delivers a speech not dissimilar to one he gave at Glastonbury. As an introduction to ‘Loving Someone’ – a song about compassion and understanding – Matty pinpoints Trump and Brexit as examples of ‘disenfranchised people’ leading the muddled voice of ‘democracy’, and drowning out the liberals. Despite this, he wants fans to be understanding and compassionate to those people even if they make us feel ‘pissed off’. An artist with insightful political views and catchy tunes, is there anything he can’t do?
Following ‘Loving Someone’ is ‘She’s American’ which goes down a storm before the band play a joint medley of ‘Please Be Naked’ and ‘lostmyhead’, which sounds as angelic as a film score. After the drama comes to an end, the heartfelt synths of the beginning of ‘Somebody Else’ drone in as screams echo around the arena. As Matty sings ‘Get someone you love? Get someone you need? Fuck that, get money!’ everyone certainly agrees with the brash sentiment as they scream out the words.
Now comes the frontman’s second speech of the night remarking how odd it is that tracks made in his bedroom have translated to a venue that holds 20,000 people. Highlighting that everyone is there for the same reason, they should be in the moment, so he politely requests everyone to be ‘intimate’ for one song, to turn their phones off and not ‘live through a screen’ for a brief moment. ‘Fallingforyou’ is the song of choice for this close encounter, and everyone obeys the singer’s caring request as lights disappear around the arena.
The last three songs the band plays are ‘Paris’, ‘Girls’ and ‘Sex’, with the latter two sending the crowd into a ruckus. As the guitar-thrashing finale of ‘Sex’ comes to an end, one cannot think that the band missed a few signature songs despite playing around a twenty-long song set. As the lights fade to black, people wonder that there must be more to come. The moment drifts by slowly before the opening chords of ‘Medicine’ chime in, a song the band recorded for a re-scoring of the 2011 film Drive. Eloquently poised, Matty begins to cry and mouths the words ‘thank you so much’ as the stage adopts the backdrop of a city skyline. This gig has truly meant the world to him. Playing next one of his favourite tracks off the new album ‘If I Believe You’ – a song about his struggles with atheism – he climbs on the speaker and has a ‘hallelujah moment’, taking everything in as the gospel choir provides heavenly harmonies. Seemingly he really does care about the music more than the press give him credit for, and this gig speaks volumes about that critique. Now comes The 1975’s anthem ‘Chocolate’ which bounds along almost as if it is ingrained in the band and fans since birth. Tipping off the night with arguably their most popular song to date, ‘The Sound’, The 1975 shut down the 02 with a celebration of their success in 2016, and the sure-fire promise of only greater things to come.