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The 1975 Rewrite The Standard For Arena Shows

This review is based on performances at Leeds (First Direct Arena) on 23/01/2023 and Liverpool (M&S Bank Arena) on 26/01/2023.

Upon booking, all fans knew to expect was a ‘stripped back’ version of a typical The 1975 show. Little did I know that At Their Very Best would quickly become the most talked about concert tour of my lifetime, attracting unprecedented hype and obsession even from non-fans. Videos of the American leg went viral, depicting frontman Matty Healy performing a new provocative stunt each night. Kissing fans, eating a raw steak while watching Liz Truss and making autotuned remarks about everything from menthols to Tories- this was going to be anything but ‘stripped back’.

In Liverpool, Healy displayed some of the best chemistry I’ve ever seen with an audience. The charismatic frontman was far more conversational than in Leeds- telling us of the band’s debaucherous time on Merseyside while recording their debut album and introducing themselves as “from just down the road in Cheshire”, which set a tight-knit relationship between us and the band for the entirety of the show. Before the show, Healy’s celebrity mum Denise Welch was graced with thunderous cheers as she was seen taking her seat, a reminder that this band means so much to their fanbase that even the singer’s mother is worshipped.

The first half of At Their Very Best takes a form best described as a play, including choreographed set pieces and scenes amongst performances of more or less every song from the band’s new album (Being Funny In A Foreign Language). These non-musical elements completely enriched the value of the show; it felt more like performance art than a typical concert. The intimacy allowed the raw emotion of the band’s quieter songs to fully resonate with the audience, something I learned all too well when I caught myself breaking into tears at a mesmerising rendition of fallingforyou. The waterworks continued throughout the ethereal About You, and, as I wiped away the tears, When We Are Together beautifully closed the opening act.

Photo by Jordan Curtis Hughes

The second half of the show dived into the band’s vibrant backlog of greatest hits, kicked off with the universally-adored If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know). In one gloriously interactive segment, Healy allowed the audience to vote for the next song, the cheers for each being electronically measured. Exclusively in Liverpool, we were also treated to a rare performance of sugary fan-favourite She’s American, a song not performed by the band anywhere since 2019.

It’s easy to stay fixated on Matty for the whole show, but the occasional glance to the rest of the band revealed they were having as much fun as us. Unsung hero George Daniel was consistently on fire on the drums, and unofficial touring saxophonist John Waugh got a better reception for his solos than some other bands get at their own gigs.

I came home from the Leeds gig a little disappointed by the lack of absurd rarities that other shows had been gifted, such as Healy’s weird moments, or the unexpected arrival of anyone from Taylor Swift to Lewis Capaldi. But by Liverpool, I had realised that the extra ingredient to this show was not provocative antics, but the atmosphere. By the closing numbers, strangers were being carried on each other’s backs, friends were hugging, I was crying, others even FaceTiming their friends who couldn’t make it, and all were screaming out the remainder of their voices. I’d take feeling like a part of something more than ‘just a concert’ over some shocking antic any day.

In a touching finale, the troupe of backing instrumentalists left the stage, leaving only the four childhood friends from Wilmslow to play Give Yourself A Try together, just like the old days. What a way to end the show.

Overall, The 1975: At Their Very Best was the most memorably outstanding concert I’ve ever been to. Never has a tour created such a buzz that even those who are usually impartial have been glued to TikTok, wondering what the mischievous Matty did this time. This tour has rewritten the standard for arena tours, and hopefully we will see more blurring of the lines between concerts and performances in future.

If you missed this once in a lifetime piece of performance art, you can catch the recording of their Madison Square Garden performance on YouTube.

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