Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The 1975 Pull Out All The Stops for Their Final Hometown Gig: ‘Still… At Their Very Best’ at Manchester AO Arena 2024

Returning with a tour so good they just had to do it all over again, the four-piece had the arena under their command for one last time before their hiatus.

Since their 2013 self-titled debut, The 1975 have released another 4 highly critically acclaimed albums, blending genres and aesthetics throughout and effortlessly reaching the UK Number 1 album top spots. What better way to celebrate their career than with a second instalment of their very best material? 


Dressed in suits and ties, 1975 tattoos, and referential make-up, the fans form just as much as the band’s identity as the members themselves (Matty Healy: vocals, George Daniel: drums, Adam Hann: guitar, Ross MacDonald: bass), and the arena was bubbling with anticipation. 


High energy and immersive storytelling are pretty much always guaranteed at their shows, but when it comes to the details, anything could happen. Despite the ‘Still… At Their Very Best’ tour being a continuation of their 2022-2023 ‘At Their Very Best’ performances, they still had some surprises up their sleeves that made their homecoming gig a night to remember.


Bringing their iconic stage design back to Manchester for a 3rd and final time emulating a house, Healy parades the built-in staircases, sofas, and television sets with ease, even climbing onto the roof whilst dad Tim Healy takes the vocals for piano ballad ‘All That I Need To Hear’. 


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The first third of the set was dedicated to their latest album ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’ with singles ‘Happiness’, ‘I’m In Love With You’, ‘Part of the Band’ and ‘Oh Caroline’ instantly injecting energy into the crowd of 21,000 people, acting as the perfect antidote for many fans who had queued for hours, if not days, to witness the show up close and personal.


Their entire performance struck a fluid balance between consistency and reinvention. Although the stage design and opening track ‘The 1975 (BFIAFL)’ remained unchanged, this time there weren't any musical guest appearances. They also included an additional B-stage for ‘I Like America and America Likes Me’ and ‘People’.


As a physical manifestation of the themes found within The 1975’s music, the show only further illustrates their artistry and creativity. It’s obvious this is no ordinary gig - it is layered, meaningful, and detailed, with news snippets bombarding the television screens referencing pop-culture and harrowing global events until it builds into a frenzy of sound. If we do after all, “create in the way we consume” as per Healy’s tagline, then their production is a direct visual reflection of living in the 21st century.

It wouldn’t be a The 1975 show without the frontman serving arrogance, charisma, and sincerity in equal measure (which makes sense as he reveals “I want The 1975 to be a romantic version of what it sounds like to be me”). Whether declaring 2016 hit ‘A Change Of Heart’ as “the best song ever”, or demanding that “every single person” scream the iconic ‘Robber’s’ bridge, it induces a magnetic call and response from the crowd; the band understand the fans’ devotion, and the fans understand the music.

This is perhaps the most interesting takeaway from the night, not only witnessing the fans’ commitment to the band, but feeling just how inherently attuned they are; if Healy asks the crowd to jump, sing, or dance, they do it. If he’s delivering a speech or zoned-in on a song’s particularly poignant moment, they listen intently, equally as attentive.


The vastness of this final homecoming gig is a striking contrast to the intimacy of their Gorilla show last year, but both prove they can work any stage and any crowd, whether performing to 600 people or 21,000. Their work transcends their physical environment, and that’s down to the relationship they’ve harboured with their fans over the years.

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Above all, the tour is incredibly meta in the classic vein of The 1975’s continuous self-referentialism. For example, harkening back to their “I Like It When You Sleep” era with beautiful neon lighting for the infectious ‘The Sound’ and the grooviest break-up song ‘Somebody Else’. It’s wonderful, but admittedly easy to get lost in, so much so that Healy confesses he’s not so sure where he fits in with it all anymore, and what the performance is really about once you peel away the layers and reach the centre.

What once used to be “a cautionary tale about being a man, and the need to keep your friends close” (perhaps this explains the multiple guest appearances on their previous tour), is now a question mark. There is one thing however that has stayed prevalent and remained ever-clear throughout the show’s intricacies and cultural musings - their gratitude for the fans: “I am a very confused person, but I do know I love you all very much”.


This sense of unity only grows as we reach the slower-paced middle section, featuring tracks like ‘Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America’ and ‘When We Are Together’. Here, Healy says goodbye to the audience and introduces each band member before their gradual departure from the first act. It’s as if, at this point, we begin to see the breakdown of the veil - no longer witnessing characters, the heightened versions of themselves, or the cultural nuances, but simply the musicians behind the masks. I can’t help but wonder if this long, delayed departure is a reflection of their long run of shows before their upcoming hiatus.


They continue to up the emotional ante with a surprise performance of the captivating ‘Medicine’ which touches on Healy’s addiction issues and is very rarely played live. They also delivered the deep cut ‘Milk’ which until it became a single in its own right in 2017, was hidden within their 2012 EP, and exhilarated long-time fans with black and white strobe lighting, mirroring the production of their self-titled era. After meeting fan Rhiannon, earlier in the day, Healy dedicated this to her as per special request, making it even more special. 


Later, Healy showed admiration for his bandmates by sharing that 2024 will mark 21 years since The 1975’s official formation, performing a snippet of ‘Guys’, a love song from 4th album ‘Notes on a Conditional Form’ dedicated to his bandmates and their career. The show comes to a close with politically charged ‘Love It If We Made It’ and nostalgia-infused ‘Sex’, giving the audience a few final moments to soak up their dynamic stagemanship.

Their music has remained unique, yet is always culturally relevant - whether that’s ‘Chocolate’ going viral on Tumblr in 2013 or ‘About You’ going viral on TikTok in 2023, they’re always at the top of their game. With such fame usually comes an inevitable disconnect from your roots, but when The 1975 still nurture inside jokes and meaningful interactions (like the “selling petrol” motif from infectious 80s-esque ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’ even within huge arenas, the magic of their live performances speaks for itself.

Whether you love or hate them, their significance and consistency within the music industry is undeniable, and this tour is further proof of that. Not many artists can sell out venues at full capacity across the globe and have fans camp for nights in anticipation. Not many artists are celebrated to the same extent by critics, industry experts, and fans alike. But for The 1975, these are everyday milestones, and the devise four-piece have become a generation-defining band, having already reached legacy status in just 10 years. Their hiatus will come as a sting to their audience and will be a genuine loss to the music industry, but their return is sure to be even more momentous.



Rachel Feehan

@rachel_feehan @rachiefee

Images: Jordan Hughes 


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