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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Natalie Rees

Review: The 1975 triumphant homecoming at their very best - and with surprise star guest Charli XCX

If you’ve been anywhere near social media in the last few weeks, you’ll no doubt have scrolled past videos from The 1975’s latest string of dates. Matty Healy has always been known for his quirky on-stage antics, and his recent behaviour during the ‘At Their Very Best’ tour has seen the frontman once again hit the headlines.

From eating raw meat on stage to sucking a fan’s thumb - it’s fair to say there hasn’t been a dull moment from the enigmatic frontman. And then there have been the surprise star guests, like when Taylor Swift casually walked out on stage in London.

Fresh from a number 1 album, Being Funny in a Foreign Language, a successful string of US dates and a total of three Brit Award nominations, The 1975 were now back on hometurf. With their adoring fans eager in anticipation - those at the very front having queued through the night to be first into the AO Arena.

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Prior to this homecoming gig, the Cheshire band had enjoyed shows in the likes of Cardiff, Birmingham, Brighton and two nights at London’s O2 Arena - the first of which saw global superstar Taylor Swift make that surprise acoustic performance of her hit ‘Anti-Hero’ and old-school The 1975 track ‘The City’.

The 1975 on stage at AO Arena Manchester (MEN)

The prospect of seeing The 1975 ‘At Their Very Best’ was exciting - not just because of how much I enjoyed their latest releases, but the buzz around their live shows was too much to ignore. The stage, more like a theatre set, looks like the inside of a house, where each band member is surrounded by soft furnishings, televisions, a leather couch, wall hangings - you get the idea.

The 1975 arrive on stage, one by one, to a soundtrack of their album opener ‘The 1975’ with their names on the big screens, akin to the style of a classic movie. This sets the tone for the night - as we’re introduced to the ‘show within a show’ directed by Matty himself, who seemingly portrays a messy, frustrated artist.

Swigging on bottles of wine, cigarette in hand, he doesn’t address the crowd at all, but it doesn’t matter because everyone is immersed in the theatrics. The band rifle through newer tracks including ‘Happiness’ and ‘Part of the Band’, intersected with random monologues from Matty.

Matty Healy on stage on The 1975 tour (Jordan Curtis Hughes)

Stage hands swarm around the house between songs, further creating the illusion of the film set. Occasionally Matty breaks the fourth wall, most notably prior to ‘All I Need To Hear’, where Matty protests that "nothing is real". However what was real was the crowd’s adoration for their heroes on stage, the screams only amplified when guitarist Adam Hann’s wife Carly joined Matty on vocals in ‘About You’.

What followed was Matty Healy at his most self-indulgent. As the rest of the band left the stage and turned off the lights, the troubled frontman was left alone.

He slowly undoes his shirt, and it all feels a bit *too* intimate, proceeding to make sexual gestures. He then crawls in front of some retro-style televisions, which are playing clips of controversial figures - Maggie Thatcher, Putin and Andrew Tate, whilst eating a chunk of raw meat.

The fever dream was almost over, but not before he crawled through the TV and disappeared.

Since Taylor Swift’s shock appearance in the capital, ticket holders have been excitedly predicting who may join them next.

It was after this episode that they finally found out as singer Charli XCX - who happens to be dating The 1975 drummer George Daniel - burst through the front door to perform her track ‘Vroom Vroom’.

The second half of the show, the band ‘at their very best’, was more of what you’d expect from a concert. Matty finally said hello to the crowd, announcing "We are The 1975 from Wilmslow… I don’t have to say how special it is to be here" before launching into ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ to get part two off to an energetic start.

It’s so easy to dismiss The 1975 and Matty Healy for what many could regard as on-stage distractions and stunts, but what followed was nothing short of a masterclass in live music.

Hits including ‘Somebody Else’, ‘Robbers’ and ‘Chocolate’ followed, as well as ‘Menswear’ - a track they hadn’t played live for a long time. Before playing ‘Chocolate’ - one of the songs from their first album that catapulted The 1975 to the mainstream a decade ago, Matty Healy thanked fans for their continued support - "10 years ago we put out this album and you’re still here".

An impressive staging on the tour (Jordan Curtis Hughes)

The nostalgia carried through as he introduced ‘I Always Wanna Die Sometimes’ - describing how the lyrics were based on the train journey from Manchester Piccadilly to Wilmslow. After an incredible two hours, The 1975 played out their final offering ‘Give Yourself A Try’ - an ode to overcoming personal struggles, which had the Manchester crowd jumping and singing even louder than they had all night.

A gig like no other I’d ever seen, a show you felt part of. It was theatrical and a bit odd at times - and although that’s all part of the allure, underlining all of that was an incredible roster of undeniably brilliant music.

There was absolutely no doubt that we’d witnessed a band in their prime… or At Their Very Best.

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