Tuesday 29 January 2019

it's not living if it's not with you: the 1975 at manchester arena

"how can a band so rooted in pop culture with such a sonic reference to popular music manage to be so inventive, forward thinking and downright impressive in everything they’ve ever done?" - charlie sinclair, love it if they made it: the rise, and rise, of the 1975

as i left manchester arena last thursday night, eyes still glassy with tears, this was the question running through my mind. 

i continued to think about it on the bus home, as i attempted to sleep with my ears still ringing, and every day since. 

ever the dramatic scorpio - with attention-seeking leo as my rising sign - i love a Dramatic Statement that often borders on hyperbole, however in the case of the 1975 i think my grandiose statements are more than justified. 

it goes without saying that i already knew the gig would be good; i've seen the band three times so i thought (i thought!) i knew what to expect, but nothing could have prepared me for what actually took place. 

enter pale waves. again, it was my third time seeing them so i had a fairly good idea of what the setlist would involve. the first three songs of their frustratingly short set were exactly what i've come to know and love from the band, but i couldn't help hoping that they might just play my favourite song drive as it didn't make the cut during their last gig at the ritz

and then it happened; four songs in and they caught me totally off guard. i can only describe it as that feeling you get when you trip or fall over in public, that delayed reaction before you realise you've landed flat on your face in the middle of a crowded street/shopping centre/club (just me?), except when i came to my senses this time, the opening notes of drive echoed throughout the arena. 

i was disappointed and slightly surprised that hardly anyone around us - we were sat in the lower tier, a block away from the one closest to the stage - knew the words. i always thought that if it were a venn diagram, fans of the 1975 and pale waves would meet nicely in the middle, but perhaps i was wrong. either way, it didn't stop me from yelling along to every word while trying not to cry and i'm still in shock that i even got to hear it. 

two songs later - closing number there's a honey brought me indescribable joy and it hit me just how far they've come from being an unsigned band to playing an arena in only two years - and they were gone, which meant only one thing; i was about to see my favourite band in a matter of minutes.

of course it felt like an eternity, the tension punctuated only briefly by the realisation that matty's dad - actor tim healy - was in the audience, sat in one of the ~exclusive~ suites above us (i hate to say it but the crowd cheered louder for him than any of the support acts) but eventually they took to the stage with an explosive rendition of give yourself a try. i can't begin to put into words how it felt to hear new songs live for the first time and watch matty cavort around the stage in a royal blue boiler suit and poppy red converse, a look that would be ridiculous on literally any other person. 

as always, his unabashed self confidence was on display as he boldly declared the 1975 to be the best band in the world - or words to that effect - but he seemed calmer somehow, more in tune with what was unfolding around him. the dark eye make-up he sported on their last tour was no more; he appeared bare faced but brighter than ever. 

next they launched into TOOTIME, one of my most played tracks from the album, accompanied by electric blue and yellow visuals. much has been made of their super-instagrammable (i'm telling you now, that word will be in the dictionary by the end of this year) stage set-up but it's truly something that you have to see for yourself. 

not usually one to spend half a gig snapping photos, i couldn't help myself as i tried to make up for the lack of pictures i took back in 2016. as social media has grown exponentially since, becoming the crux of a brief inquiry, it was a far cry from the o2 when matty asked people to put their phones away during one song. 

it seems like he's fully embracing social media and all its trappings with these visuals, as gasps of amazement could be heard when the back wall appeared to open up and matty stepped inside a giant iphone. the set made the whole thing feel expansive and intimate all at once, like he was within touching distance but also riding high in the stratosphere, and of course the whole thing was captured on our own phones. 

i also liked the nods to eras past; the bright colours gave way to the signature, subdued pink of i like it when you sleep... during she's american, loving someone and a change of heartpost-love me, matty's name flashed on screen in several different fonts as he poked fun at himself once more. 

it would be criminal to neglect sincerity is scary and the projection which made it feel as if we were all in the video, walking the streets of new york with matty, as well as the conveyor belt/treadmill built into the actual stage, which he utilised many times during the show. a special shout out should also be given to the jaiy twins, who matty declared as "the two new members of the 1975"; they certainly fit right in, adding even more life to the already captivating it's not living (if it's not with you)

maybe it's due to his stint in rehab, an experience which became the inspiration for several tracks on a brief inquiry or simply getting older and shedding some of the self-deprecating bravado he hid behind during the last album cycle, but he seemed far more at peace, though in this (excellent) interview backstage at the show, he still talked about getting nervous beforehand.

i was pleased to see that he described himself as "mister nostalgia" as he described walking around the city, and it's odd to think of him wandering around town while i was stuck in an exam; during my break i embarked on a brief search for the band after seeing on instagram that they were minutes away from where i was sitting during shorthand, but with no success. 

that sense of ~nostalgia~ has become more and more prevalent over the last year or two; perhaps because it's now ten years (!) since i started going to gigs and the realisation that most people in the crowd that night probably weren't even born then. like matty on a brief inquiry, i've found myself becoming more Self Aware and less deprecatory and i think it's just something that comes with Growing Up.

things started to get emotional during how to draw/petrichor - though crowds often take the slower songs as an excuse to go to the bar or grab a quick toilet break, i find it's these moments which allow for breathing room and a chance to take everything in. it didn't last long though as The Nostalgia kicked in during the next song robbers, when the cameras panned to a gaggle of girls squashed together on the front row, no older than 15, all with mascara tinged tears streaming down their faces. 

it then zoomed in on matty who was also fighting back tears, and that was it. i couldn't help but think of how much this band meant to everyone in the room; the fans who pestered their parents for tickets, (most likely) skipped school to queue in the freezing cold and shelled out £30 for a t-shirt at the merch stand - that was me once - but most of all him. 

as i was still wiping away tears, fallingforyou began, followed by paris (which surprisingly the crowd chose to hear over UGH!) and medicine, in which a sea of phones lit up the arena. next up was i like america & america likes me, another favourite from the new album. i feel like i've neglected the newer songs somewhat, but make no mistake, they still packed a punch, this one in particular with its culturally relevant clusterfuck of a lyric video replicated on screen. 

seeing as they love to make us suffer, my all time favourite somebody else followed and they allowed us a short dance break during girls, before i always wanna die (sometimes) sent my emotions into overdrive again. i was reminded of that glorious moment at the end of every uni night out when wonderwall blasted through the speakers and everyone clung together in a mass of sweaty, drunken bodies, except this time i was sober and trying to hold back even more tears. 

in the aforementioned another man interview, he talks about wanting to be "watching somebody have their teenage mind blown for two hours" and i couldn't have summed it up better myself. the combination of seeing my favourite band in our (!) home city and screaming along to every word of songs that mean so much to me is the reason why i pay extortionate ticket fees (though the 1975 have always been fairly affordable) and risk losing my voice for the next two days, and that love for live music hasn't waned since i was 13, though you'll never catch me in a mosh pit ever again. 

it's an escape too; after a particularly hellish, exam-filled day, this gig was the only thing helping me through it, and with my course drawing to a close, i'm finding myself worry about The Future  more and more, so naturally this quote from matty hit me where it hurts: 

"i want people to come to the shows, and leave thinking about who they are. what i love is when you can see young people watching the whole thing, and you can see they’re thinking, ‘i wanna do that.’ that’s what i was. i want people to go away and be more inspired."

and that's exactly what it did. 

my absolute favourite moment however, has got to be the euphoric love it if we made it. again, they replicated the music video on the screens behind them, and as you might expect, the visuals all the more arresting in a 21,000 capacity arena. if you could bottle the sheer ecstasy i felt when the chorus hit, i'd buy a lifetime supply. 

everything faded to black and white - and pink again - once more for the final few songs, which as always are the highlight of any 1975 show. already chocolate, the sound and sex have cemented themselves as timeless tracks guaranteed to get everyone on their feet. 

as the lights went up and siri bid us goodbye, i began to ask myself "how do they do it?" and perhaps the answer lies in charlie sinclair's gigwise article, when he said that "they’ve captured the internal monologue of modern existence, packaged it and sold it straight back to us". 

modernity might have failed us, but the 1975 will be damned if they let it defeat them. 

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