Live Review: The 1975

The 1975

M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool, 26th February 2020

Words and Photos by Lucy McLachlan

image1Up until around two years ago, I had never listened to The 1975. An old friend and fellow cult member told me I had to listen to them, I trusted his judgement and one quiet night in work I decided to watch all their videos on YouTube.

At first I was sceptical, it sounded like pop music, what I had to listen to on the radio, but the more I listened the more interesting things I could hear. The catchier the songs got. I started noticing the sarcasm in the videos and lyrics. Their ability to take the piss out of themselves. By the end of my shift I’d watched the videos numerous times over and I was hooked. But I had no idea why.

I bought the first two albums and listened to the religiously inside out. It was like nothing else I listened to but also the most refreshing music ever.  I raved about their third album and was gutted when I missed out on photographing their 2019 Manchester show.

You could say the same went for Beabadoobee.  Captivated by her imaginative sound, I was looking to catch her in the Dirty Hit tour at the end of 2019 but couldn’t make the gig that night.

Beabadoobee appeared bathed in blue light and brings some lush pop and a voice like the softer Gwen Stefani parts on Tragic Kingdom. Fresh from a Rising Star Brit award nomination, older songs like If You Want To have a Pavement-style guitar sound. White lights blinded her for her final song, She Plays Bass, giving us a taste of the visuals that were to come. It’s a beautiful set of hazy west coast dream pop.  The set ends with a shout of “1-2-3-4!” and turns into a kind of angry-girl-music-of-the-indie-rock-persuasion that should be on a 10 Things I Hate About You inspired playlist.

Blasting straight away into People, the stage explodes into full HD digital noise. Every surface onstage is a screen with everything turned up to twelve. Lyrics flashing in yellow and black subtitles across everywhere.  It’s immersive, attention grabbing and you can’t take your eyes off it.

It would be easy for a band to start with a few huge songs from their three albums to get the crowd on side and then add a smattering of other favourites scattered here and there. But their whole set list tonight is huge with treats for basically any fan.

Playing for two hours we get older EP/ b-side songs like the fragile and honest fallingforyou; from their eponymous debut hidden gems Menswear, and Heart Out; from I Like It When You Sleep… Somebody Else and Lostmyhead; and from third album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You) and TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME. In addition the crowd were treated to several songs coming from their next album Notes On A Conditional Form.

New song Guys has a karaoke sing along behind the scenes video of the band plastered across the screens. It’s full of old videos from some very early days, making clear that this is a love song to his fellow band members. “Look after your friends it’s important” Healy says at finish.

As the band pushed through the set list I got completely lost in the Incredible staging.  Giant shimmery flying rectangles, 3D boxes also used as screens moving seamlessly over the band’s heads. For each song the whole stage managed to completely change.  The show never stopped.  If it wasn’t the huge screens screaming at you, there was lush colourful lighting, and layers of brightly lit rectangles.

For Lostmyhead a platform appeared in the middle of the back wall sucking a guitar playing Healy into a dripping digital void.

New song The Birthday Party saw guitarist Adam Hann take on a banjo whilst the visuals are a mix of sickly sweet, overly filtered daydream and internet nasties ending in some ASMR clicks and pops.

I Always Wanna Die is a song made for arenas.  The 90s indie pop sound filled the arena so far it was like it felt like we were surrounded by space. One to send chills down your spine.

Towards the end Healy noted that we millennials struggle with attention span and asks people not to heckle (whilst people heckled) during an important five minutes.  Then followed Greta Thunberg’s powerful and eponymous collaboration on climate change. As Healy stood at the end of the stage, the majority of the room stayed silent and watched the words she spoke emblazoned on the big screens, but it must be noted that a good portion chose that time to leave for the bar.

You say that nothing in life is black or white, but that is a lie, a very dangerous lie. Either we prevent a 1.5 degree of warming, or we don’t; either we avoid setting off that irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, or we don’t; either we choose to go on as a civilization, or we don’t. That is as black or white as it gets because there are no grey areas when it comes to survival

I think it is fair to note too at this point that on this tour The 1975‘s actions have spoken loudly too with upcycled versions of old t-shirts being used for merchandise rather than being binned and a tree being planted for every ticket sold – and that’s a hell of a lot of trees.

The Sound ends the night in a bath of pink light and visual.  Quotes from reviews of the band as appeared in the video flash up on screens behind them.  A mosh pit forms in the middle that evolves into the whole of the standing section manically jump up and down. It’s an energising sight to see.

Just like The 1975.

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