Matty Healy is angry. As he leans into the crowd during ‘I Like America & America Likes Me’, he spits with a visceral venom that lifts the song to a previously unheard level. His anger runs throughout the very veins of set opener ‘People’ - a storming, punk-inspired number far removed from anything The 1975 have delivered to date or since. It’s mirrored in his curt, no-nonsense introduction to a replaying of climate change activist Greta Thunberg’s poignant call-to-arms. Not paying attention will piss him off, he notes with sobering force. The O2 obliges as the arena dips to a pin-drop silence, an evident respect for Greta’s vital message.
The passion that fuels both Matty’s anger and activism is deeply engrained across The 1975’s 24 strong set - the longest they have ever played, the frontman reveals with an unmistakable mixture of pride and fear. Even in their softer moments - of which there are many - the band hone in on individual emotions. On ‘Robbers’, one of a handful of songs making an appearance from their debut self-titled album, Matty’s voice is tinged by a gentle snarl. Elsewhere the band opt for deeper cuts than ever before, encouraging comparisons to Icelandic experimentalists Sigur Rós in the vast instrumental atmosphere they command. ‘Fallingforyou’, again from the debut, offers an escapist soundscape. The radio-friendly set stalwarts part ways for the likes of the shoegaze-esque ‘Lostmyhead’ and the gut-wrenching ‘I Couldn’t Be More In Love’. Alongside two unreleased tracks, ‘Guys’ and ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’, the expansive set also makes space for further live rarities such as ‘Milk’.
Existing in a sparsely-inhabited grey area between pop, rock, punk, electronic and everything in-between, The 1975 have rapidly become veterans at breaking the mould. Most recent single, ‘The Birthday Party’, presents itself as a twee pop ballad; Matty’s whispered tone unfolding in front of a swirling, bubblegum backdrop. Moments later he’s tackling themes of gun violence in the United States. There’s a remarkable confidence in this effortless ability to pull it all together, in crafting a world inside The O2 that is unmistakably theirs.
This world dashes between the powerful and the frivolous, from the punch to the face of ‘Love It If We Made It’ to the pop-perfect ‘Chocolate’. It’s one of dazzling colour and lights. Much like their previous trip to the capital, the initially simple stage set-up contorts with melting backdrops, vibrant lights and moving platforms. All are perfectly matched with the ever-changing tempo of the set which, for almost two hours, envelops the arena in a hedonistic haze, one that jumps from palpable anger to unabridged joy, and occupies every space between.
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