- Live Review
- 30 Jan 23
We've all read the headlines about Matty Healy eating raw meat and doing push-ups on stage during the interval portion of The 1975's 'At Their Very Best' tour, so we won't harp on about it.
Despite the ego of Matty Healy - which is partially laced with self-awareness, to give him credit - the Cheshire-born frontman allows others to soak in the spotlight at The 1975's gigs. Surrounded by talented musicians and childhood friends - including a sizeable group of tour performers to help himself, drummer George Daniel, bassist Ross MacDonald and guitarist Adam Hann recreate their booming, trademark indie-pop sound in a live format - the star special guests on The 1975's 'At Their Very Best' tour have often nabbed more headlines than the outfit's set.
Taylor Swift performing 'Anti-Hero' for the first time ever in London and Lewis Capaldi impersonating Healy's bizarre on-stage antics - including the whole raw meat debacle and feeling himself portion of the evening - made global news.
For someone whose quotes go viral 24/7, Healy isn't your typical attention-grabbing leader. His ability to make fun of himself and warp ideas of social media and fame consumption is relatively modern. The first half of the evening sees Healy move drunkenly around the stage swinging a bottle of wine and hip-flask of some liquor about, staring into the static-filled television nearby and writhing around the couches, peeling away layers of clothing as the young audience goes feral.
Is he making fun of other frontmen of the past? Is he recalling his own behaviour at gigs prior to his stint in rehab? The first time I saw The 1975 was at Malahide Castle a few years back, where he most definitely wasn't sober and veered off the setlist bizarrely throughout (not that I can judge, but it's technically our job to observe). A rough patch in his life changed his perspective on survival and existence, leading to new creative horizons.
The next time I saw the band was at the 3Arena in 2019, when Healy seemed like a man reborn as he offered hit after hit from their first three albums, the most recent one at the time being A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships. Healthy, vocally strong and fascinating to watch - three years on at the same venue, he was At His Very Best following two more album releases: 2020's Notes on a Conditional Form and 2022's Being Funny In A Foreign Language. Whether the performance art actually injects any meaning to the tour is another question, but he potentially wants to prove he can go TikTok viral at any moment he wants - which is true.
Everyone's TikTok home feed has been flooded incarnate with clips from the current slew of shows. He can force himself into the "discourse" for chronically online people literally by clicking his fingers. Maybe that's the point?
Of course, some moves don't go down a treat. A video of him acting out a Nazi salute on stage to reference Kanye West's antisemitism in a lyric recently did the rounds online. Whether his intent was to mock the alt-right incel species or not, many were upset at the platforming of such a dark symbol in a massive setting. That's a conversation for another day.
The buzz around a special guest in Ireland ripples through the crowd before the group take to the, admittedly clever, stage. Niall Horan had just announced a forthcoming new single, 'Heaven' - does this mean part of the promotion would be a 1975 appearance? Lewis Capaldi is playing the venue the following day, did he arrive in Ireland early and fancied another go on the band's stage? Or even...Bono? He's got a book and upcoming repurposed U2 album to sell, lest we forget. None came through the door on the night, not that it mattered.
The set design recreates a sprawling house, mostly cream-walled with rugs and seats littered about the place, plus a black leather couch Healy uses frequently to his advantage. The lights are turned on by scaling an electricity pole, as each musician is introduced on the screen to massive cheers entering through the front door before Healy begins the show as creative director. On a slumped piano that resembles a desk, The 1975 open the Dublin show with a track also called The 1975, indebted to 'All My Friends' by LCD Soundsystem. Healy lights a cigarette and sips his wine, staring into the camera.
“I’m feelin’ apathetic after scrolling through hell,” he croons on the song. “Making an aesthetic out of not doing well and mining all the bits of you you think you can sell."
In the past, the opening track on the band’s albums has been a new rendition of the same song. Healy has described this pattern as the band “checking in” with each release: “You open the door and you see someone you haven’t seen for ages in person. But hey, your hair’s different, you know? That kind of thing.”
The 1975 broke this tradition for the first time in their 2020 studio album Notes on a Conditional Form, when the song was replaced with a speech by environmentalist Greta Thunberg. For Being Funny in a Foreign Language, The 1975 opted to change the lyrics of the iconic track. 'The 1975' is about Healy holding himself accountable, and pointing out his flaws, but he cut some lyrics deemed too “self-referential, even for him”, including: “You owe James Murphy 20 percent of this song, your career, and the whole idea/Of living in the city with a tingle of fear.”
Split into two distinct acts, the band shun the practice of slotting in new material between the hits. The first 75 minutes of the show is material almost entirely from Being Funny in a Foreign Language, delivered as a conceptual show-within-a-show that feels constructed to test the audience’s patience and their expectations about the nature of pop shows. Transitions between songs are often longer than average as Healy moves around the house, waxes lyrical in front of a TV spouting political dialogue while drinking or smoking.
It's totally unique for the band, and constructs the 33-year-old's reputation for absurdity and internet memes into something more interesting. Say what you want about the confessional provocateur, but he commands an arena with ease.
At times, Healy stops the show and uses an old-fashioned style clapper to restart, as if filming their own TV special. The role of a drunk and arrogant rockstar makes sense when we pay closer attention to Being Funny in a Foreign Language, which explores the dichotomies of modern masculinity with all its fragility and toxicity.
Images of Andrew Tate and Prince Andrew flash on the screen occasionally as he declares that men are confused. As are the audience in certain moments, but the predominantly female-identifying crowd - and many of their boyfriends - are just delighted to be there. Despite joking that the Irish are "easy to please", a "simple people", Matty avoids dodgy headlines this time. The audience were in awe no matter what he did.
'Looking for Somebody (to Love)' and 'Happiness' whip up the energy as Matty dances and wobbles around the carpet, before 'Part of the Band' gets a passionate scream from the audience. His vocals shine brightly on 'Oh Caroline' and '80s pop-driven album hit 'I'm in Love With You', which featured Phoebe Bridgers in the black-and-white video.
A cover of Charlie Chaplin's 'Smile' ensues before 'All I Need to Hear', 2018 standout 'Sincerity Is Scary' and 'fallingforyou'. The feel-good songs, despite their pop melodies, address one's tendencies to put up a facade out of insecurity and anxiety. The 1975 have partially connected with fans for a decade and topped charts, not to mention grew their online followers, as a result of their relationship with social media and the news cycle.
After enjoying a back-and-forth conversation briefly with a 12-year-old boy near the front, who has been belting the lyrics to every song right back to Healy, the frontman points him out and asks his age. "Being a role model is scary, I feel like I have no actual power except being on this stage with a guitar," he posits. The boy, nevertheless, is grinning from ear to ear on his dad's shoulders.
We’re all agreed the 12 year old on his dads shoulders at the 1975 is the coolest person in Dublin yeh??
— killian 🇵🇸🏳️⚧️ (@killianodris) January 29, 2023
The bandleader then sings 'I Like America & America Likes Me' from the roof of the set, lit by a single streetlamp. This was where the hilarious, viral auto-tuned quip of Healy bellowing "Don't throw menthols on the stage" was born. 'About You' and 'When We Are Together' finish the first portion of the theatrical performance, before the whole raw meat and push ups saga begins and Healy slides into the TV screen into darkness.
Reemerging in black outfits for the 'At Their Very Best' section of the night, the band jump into fan favourites 'If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)' and 'TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME'. Upbeat, addictive and synth-heavy; the tracks showcase the reason why The 1975 repeatedly climb to the top of the charts. Guilty pleasure or not, they use all the skills of pop music to their advantage. "It's nice having Irish people on top of you," Matty declares, waving to the upper stands of the 3Arena before backtracking at the sexual innuendo. I believe the Englishman makes statements that are bound to reach Twitter or tabloids on purpose, but perhaps that's giving him too much credit. All publicity is good publicity, as they say.
I didn't have to witness him gob any fans last night, much to my relief, though many of them held up signs that read: 'I have ID - Kiss Me Matty'. At each gig, he begins a conversation with the crowd by stating that the fellow band-members can start a song when he's speaking and cut him off at any point. One night, he followed it by starting a sentence about trans rights, then Chinese people, before the intro of 'It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)' kicks in, hilariously. In Dublin, it was: "So when we look at immigration on paper..." before the trademark guitar riff starts and the audience belts the words back.
'She's American' is on the list before the Dublin venue votes between three tracks based on decibel level. It was a draw between 'Menswear' and 'Paris', so The 1975 gift us with both, seeing as it's a "democracy", plus their breakout hit 'Chocolate'. Oldies but goldies from a decade ago and their self-titled 2013 debut album, they still stand up well in an arena, and emphasises how far the quartet have come.
'Robbers' and 'Somebody Else' bring the tempo down slightly, but the passionate crowd adoringly screech each lyric back to Healy. He finds the latter track amusing, jesting about his penchant for writing about girls and heartbreak in his early-to-mid twenties. Ahead of 'Love It If We Made It' earning one of the most deafeningly loud cheers of the night (my ears are still ringing), Matty urges that the song is even more "eerily relevant" today than ever before.
"Saying controversial things just for the hell of it / Selling melanin and then suffocate the black men / Start with misdemeanours and we'll make a business out of them And we can find out the information access all the applications / That are hardening positions based on miscommunication / Oh, fuck your feelings, truth is only hearsay / We're just left to decay, modernity has failed us," Healy belts, with eye-watering breath control as he moves around the stage like a panther, kicking things and throwing the microphone stand.
Beloved 2016 hit 'The Sound', which started the group's more complex relationship with critics, using their own negative press quotes in their favour, shakes the walls of the 3Arena as the whole audience jumps in time, responding to Matty's every instruction like a cult fanbase ought to.
Close to 10:30pm, two hours after The 1975 hit the stage, Matty tells people not to stay late if they have a babysitter or a train to catch on his account. "I'm doing the right thing in my own time rather than doing the right thing to look good in public, which earns you rewards," he posits, before jumping into another past favourite, 'Sex'.
Closing out the show with the propulsive 'Give Yourself a Try', it's a positive note to finish an intense performance from a band at their peak. You can deduce by the euphoric feeling emanating around the 3Arena and Dublin quays even after the gig ended - every rickshaw held tipsy fans screaming their songs into the night - that The 1975 aren't going anywhere.
Playing 75 minutes of music most fans didn't necessarily buy tickets to hear while play-acting as an incel was a risk, but it seemed to pay off, judging by the highs of act two and the beaming smiles on the sea of faces around me. Between the set design, near-psychological study of a frontman's odd mind and pop anthems that don't take a second to rest; you wouldn't see a gig like this anywhere else right now.
"I love you guys," Healy grins before fixing his hair in the mirror, donning his blazer and switching off the lights on the penultimate gig of their UK & Ireland tour. Belfast, you're up.
Revisit Hot Press' recent cover interview with Matty Healy here.
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