Live review

The 1975, Finsbury Park, London

2nd July 2023

Within an undeniable set of bangers, it was a notably tense moment that encapsulates the current mood around the band.

When The 1975 dreamt up the spectacular multi-level house that acts as the endlessly creative stage set for their current Still At Their Very Best… tour, amongst the sofas and TV sets that bring it to life, they likely weren’t expecting to wind up with such a large elephant in the room.

Today’s Finsbury Park show has been a long time coming. First planned for 2020, it’s taken three years and an entirely new album and arena tour run to bring it back to life; sold out months in advance, it should be a crowning cherry on the top of a career-defining run that’s seen them accumulating five star reviews across the board. And yet following the world’s most ill-advised podcast appearance and a subsequent takedown just last week by label-mate Rina Sawayama, who blasted Healy as “a white man that watches Ghetto Gaggers and mocks Asian people”, there’s an understandably strange mood surrounding today. Of course, there are still endless die-hards in The 1975 merch wandering around, but increasingly it’s becoming harder to be quite as vocal a fan of the band as it used to be.

Before the main event, there’s a solid support bill of friends and colleagues to see out the afternoon. Kicking off the inadvertent saxophone theme of the day, The Japanese House makes for a well-loved lunchtime introduction, with her cooler, on-record electronics substituted for something altogether more tactile and classically band-centric. Whoever decided to put Cigarettes After Sex on as main support following Jack Antonoff’s Bleachers, meanwhile, needs a stern talking to. Where Antonoff and his band are a rousing troupe who completely understand the festival assignment, bringing energy and enthusiasm to every Springsteen-adjacent note, Cigarettes… are entirely ill-suited to the crowd; their downbeat, shoegazey dream-pop acting like an unwanted sedative on the afternoon’s burgeoning buzz.

The 1975, Finsbury Park, London The 1975, Finsbury Park, London The 1975, Finsbury Park, London The 1975, Finsbury Park, London

For the entirety of At Their Very Best…, The 1975 have been touting a show within a show; a meta untangling of what it is to be a performer on stage, questioning what’s real and what’s not whilst picking at tropes of masculinity in increasingly headline-baiting ways. As Healy walks out in a white lab coat and megaphone as the show slowly starts to hum into action, directing cameras where to point and band mates to get into position, it seems as though tonight will go in on the bit even stronger than ever. Yet where previously the high concept staging felt like the peak of a group who’ve always tested the boundaries of what a pop band can be, fronted by a man whose obvious intelligence often protrudes in unexpected ways, tonight even Healy soon realises that the fourth wall needs to be removed much quicker. “It’s really hard to do the first half of this show when I’m supposed to be all nihilistic and dour,” he notes. “Who gives a fuck?”

The setlist is undeniable - ‘Love Me’ gets an early outing, while ‘Oh Caroline’ and ‘I’m In Love With You’ show the concise hook-writing that sits at the centre of recent LP ‘Being Funny in a Foreign Language’. There’s even a surprise (and unexpectedly lovely) appearance from Healy’s actor father Tim, who arrives to croon a rendition of ‘All I Need to Hear’ before the pure hits second half of the set kicks in: ‘The Sound’, ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You’, ‘Robbers’ and so on, and so on.

The 1975, Finsbury Park, London

Midway through, however, Healy addresses the crowd with a notable admission that “some stuff I got wrong”. “The 1975 isn’t a dry band. There’s a lot of irony in it. Like ‘Love Me’, for example, it doesn’t make sense unless I’m taking the piss out of myself. I was always, like, trying stuff. And some stuff I got right and some stuff I got wrong. There’s a lot of things I’ve said, jokes that I’ve made, you know what, there’s probably a couple of fucking songs I’d take back if I had the chance,” he continues before finishing off with: “And you know what, I’m fucking proud of myself."

It’s perhaps not the greatest ending to an apology, further exacerbated by a segment in which videos of Andrew Tate and Kanye West flash up on the stage’s TV and a moment around ‘Somebody Else’ where he declares that “you can’t help but feel sexual ownership over your partner”. Resoundingly odd choices given the current atmosphere around the singer, the main feeling with each raised eyebrow is frustration: that one of this generation’s most interesting frontmen, with the ability to write a song as unparalleled as a late-set ‘Love It If We Made It’, is making it more difficult by the day to keep your flag nailed to The 1975’s mast.

They end with a surprise encore of ‘People’ - a fittingly heavy exorcism of a song that rails against apathy in the band’s most feral ever fashion. Tonight’s set is full of brilliance and ambition, a visual and musical testament to a band who have consistently raised their own bar higher and higher; but a little of the magic has been extinguished, and it’s hard not to wonder if they can claw it back.

The 1975, Finsbury Park, London The 1975, Finsbury Park, London The 1975, Finsbury Park, London The 1975, Finsbury Park, London The 1975, Finsbury Park, London

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