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26th February 2024

The 1975 live in Manchester: A romantic night at the arena

British pop-rock band, The 1975, brought their highly talked about ‘At their very best’ show back to the UK after a year, rebranded as ‘Still…At their very best’
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The 1975 live in Manchester: A romantic night at the arena
Jordan Hughes @ Press

Entering the AO Arena felt like being transported back to 2014, with a sea of white shirts, black ties, and Doc Martens – key staples of the indie band The 1975‘s iconic aesthetic. The numerous bows in hair and iPhone 15s were the only ties to 2024. Last year, The 1975’s ‘At Their Very Best’ show featured surprise appearances from Charli XCX and even a Greggs sausage roll. Now, the burning question on everybody’s mind was what new theatrics would the band unveil this time?

The indie band, comprising frontman Matty Healy, drummer George Daniel, guitarist Adam Hann, and bassist Ross Macdonald, met at secondary school in Wilmslow and formed 21 years ago. In the early days, the band played various shows around Manchester before propelling to stardom with the release of their self-titled debut album in 2013. Now, more than ten years later and after four world tours together, The 1975 returned to Manchester for a second sold-out night at the AO Arena in support of their most recent release, Being Funny In A Foreign Language.

Indie pop musician The Japanese House (the solo project of Amber Bain) gave a phenomenal start to the night. She performed a seven-song set mainly consisting of tracks from her critically acclaimed sophomore album In the End It Always Does, which featured production credits from Daniel. Songs like ‘Touching Yourself’ were only elevated on an arena stage, with a dedicated group of fans at the front screaming the words back to Bain.

An hour later, the curtain dropped, revealing the elaborate house stage design that the band have transported across the world for the past two years. Healy lay across a black sofa, seemingly unaware that 21,000 people were peering into his ‘home’. Hann was second to emerge, turning on the lights in the house whilst Healy awoke from his ‘slumber’. Now at a piano, Guinness in hand and cigarette lit, the frontman began the eponymous title track from their most recent album.

Jordan Hughes @ Press

By the end of the song, the entire band had taken the stage, before exploding into ‘Looking For Somebody (To Love)’. The first act of the show was dominated by performances of songs from the recent album. Healy’s father and Benidorm star, Tim Healy, even made a surprise appearance for ‘All I Need To Hear’, whilst his son watched from atop the house.

The crowd reached its peak during fan-favourite ‘Robbers’ from their debut album, which defined the Tumblr era of the early 2010s. The first act ended with the charming ‘When We Are Together’, during which Healy introduced his bandmates. They each left the stage, with Macdonald giving Healy an affectionate kiss before turning each of the lights off and leaving Healy with just a guitar in hand, singing the final chorus alone.

Healy wrote and directed the entire show, describing it as a “cautionary tale about being a man” and how important it is to “keep your friends close [and not to] let them leave so it’s just you.” The show explores the dichotomy of authenticity in performance, and in the early shows, absurdity was at its core. From eating raw meat to a getting tattoo mid-show, clips from the performance were amassing thousands of views online. However, the theatrics of the show began to eclipse the gig itself, which predictably led to pitfalls.

Now, though, Healy stated that the “message has changed” and claimed, “I want The 1975 to be a romantic version of what it sounds like to be me.” Love seemed to underpin the entire evening between Healy, the audience, and his bandmates. “I am a very confused person, but I do know that I love you all very much,” he professed, before crawling into a TV screen playing a reel of clips of recent current affairs, including criticism of himself.

Jordan Hughes @ Press

Healy then emerged on the B-stage to perform ‘I Like America & America Likes Me’ from the band’s experimental album Notes On A Conditional Form. The stage was bare except for a life-sized nude model of Healy. Guitarist Polly Money then delicately sang ‘Jesus Christ God Bless America 2005’ as Healy made his way back to the main stage.

The band performed their greatest hits for the remainder of their set and the crowd watched Healy parade the stage with his arms extended – like a preacher and his congregation. To the crowd’s surprise, the band performed deep-cut ‘Milk’ for the first time since 2020 at the request of a fan – a clearly ecstatic moment for all the superfans present.

While controversies may have plagued them over the past year, the band showed that they are in fact ‘still at their very best’. To anyone who has been lucky enough to witness the band live, it is clear that they are era-defining for so many, of all ages. The return of the show, saw their musical prowess take the spotlight rather than the absurd theatrics of past shows. Whilst this is the last run of UK shows before the band’s indefinite hiatus, they left a lasting romantic sentiment upon their Manchester audience who will eagerly await their homecoming.

Amara Uzokwe

Amara Uzokwe

Head of Music Section Marketing. 3rd year Aerospace Engineering student. Instagram: @rose_amara

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