Stephen Ong reviews The 1975’s Exeter show
“Rock and roll is dead, God bless The 1975,” flash the LED screens as the band finish playing ‘Sex’, the final song of the night. Only bands of the biggest ego could make such a claim, and it is frontman Matty Healy’s flamboyant, ineffable charisma that allows them to own the statement.
God knows why one of Britain’s biggest bands decided to play in a barn on a farm, but it led to a much more intimate show than others they have played on this tour (they played London’s O2 Arena only a couple days before). Fans camped outside the venue the night before, and the excitement was palpable.
The 1975 brought label-mates No Rome and Pale Waves on tour with them as opening acts, who provided upbeat pop music to get the crowd warmed up for them. No Rome played the songs off his debut EP RIP Indo Hisashi and rapped on a couple of unreleased tracks, while Pale Waves threatened to steal the show with their glossy guitar pop. By the time they had reached the end of their set, debut single ‘There’s A Honey’ was received by an ecstatic crowd, showing how much the band have developed their live act in the last two years of touring.
Pale Waves threatened to steal the show with their glossy guitar pop
However, the biggest cheer was reserved for The 1975 themselves, as they took the stage during the third iteration of their self-titled intro song, before segueing into ‘Give Yourself A Try’. The band proceeded to play hit after hit in front of a backdrop of neon rectangles and a screen conceptualised by Healy himself. A treadmill was used for ‘Sincerity Is Scary’ as Healy donned a beanie to emulate the music video, and backup dancers The Jay Twins took centre stage on ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’. Midway through the set, No Rome even returned for ‘Narcissist’, his collaboration with The 1975.
the biggest cheer was reserved for The 1975 themselves
After this, the show began to take on a more personal tone, with Healy addressing the audience between songs, directing ‘A Change Of Heart’ as a love song for all the men in the audience, and dedicating ‘Robbers’ to the fans in the most emotional segment of the night. Deep cut ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Brain’ was a standout moment with its erratic instrumentation and visuals, and fans of the band’s older material were in for a treat when they played the atmospheric ‘fallingforyou’ and ‘Undo’. The band even took a huge risk by playing ‘How to Draw / Petrichor’ mid-set, which morphed from an ambient song into pulsating drum and bass, and managed to hold the attention of a fair amount of the audience.
The pace of the concert began to pick up again once the band resumed playing their hits – ‘Somebody Else’ and ‘Girls’ had the whole crowd (including parents and boyfriends) moving and singing along, and Britpop closer ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ was an anthemic, phones-in-the-air moment (interestingly enough, Oasis played this very same venue 22 years ago).
Britpop closer ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ was an anthemic phones-in-the-air moment
When the lights returned signalling an encore, Healy was alone on the stage with an acoustic guitar, and proceeded to lead the audience into a heartfelt rendition of ‘Be My Mistake’, though many fans found themselves smirking at the lyrics of the song. The best was saved for last, however, as the re-energised crowd shouted along to every word of ‘Love It If We Made It’, and danced wildly to the guitar solo of ‘The Sound’. By the end of ‘Sex’, it was clear nearly everyone was exhausted, yet impressed and thoroughly satisfied.
It is a testament to The 1975’s live show that they managed to engage the audience so well, despite missing out hits such as ‘Heart Out’ and ‘Love Me’ that have previously been staples of their live set. The band looks happier than ever since Healy’s rehabilitation, and it is undeniable they have reached a new career peak. With a new album coming out soon and a headlining slot at this year’s Reading and Leeds, it seems that the only way for The 1975 is up.