The 1975 At 3Arena, Dublin – Photos & Review
The 1975 at 3Arena – 24 March 2016
Where have all the great rock stars gone? It’s a question that has frequently arisen over the past number of years, becoming a topic of discussion once more following the untimely passing of the iconic David Bowie. With festivals constantly booking the same old heritage acts due to ‘a lack of suitable new headliners’ and the steep decline in the artistic merits of chart-based pop music looking increasingly irreversible, modern music needs an icon…and fast. Step forward The 1975’s Matt Healy. Like all the great rock stars, the 26 year old possesses an otherworldly charisma that suggests he was born to bestride the world’s biggest stages. With Jim Morrison’s leather pants, David Bowie’s makeup (with a hint of The Thin White Duke’s ‘is he, isn’t he?’ androgyny), the sexual magnetism of Michael Hutchence and a pair of ridiculous Cuban heel boots even Bono himself would baulk at, it seems Healy was pieced together from an identikit assemble-it-yourself rock star package. But what of the music? Fusing a mish-mash of musical genres broadly ranging from funk, soul, r ‘n’ b, 80s power pop and indie rock ‘n’ roll, The 1975 are the ideal band for the Spotify generation, an audience far less boxed in by genre boundaries than many music fans of yesteryear.
With their sophomore album I like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it (a wonderfully ludicrous title which will make many music critics check their spelling of ‘pretentious’) only released late last month, it has wasted no time in pushing the Manchester four-piece to the cusp of megastardom, shooting straight to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, selling 100,000 copies in the U.S alone. There is no band in the world right now on such a sharp upward trajectory. It doesn’t seem long since this writer caught the band at their first Dublin headliner in 2012, playing to less than 10 people in the dark underground basement that is the Academy 2. Despite the low attendance that night, the four-piece played as though they were headlining Wembley. Tonight they take a step closer to achieving that dream of stadium headline shows.
Sauntering on to the vast 3Arena stage just past 9pm and kicking into the discordant 80s strut of brilliant comeback single ‘Love Me’, the eardrum-shattering shrieks from tonight’s crowd are almost at One Direction level of hysteria. Having Harry Styles and co. gush about the band in interviews has seen a large crossover in the respective acts fanbases, but despite their audience often appearing more suited to that of a chart-topping boyband, The 1975’s musical output is far from generic. Always a fascinating interviewee given his refreshingly straight-talking nature, Healy’s frankness extends to his songwriting where he openly tackles heavy subjects like cocaine addiction, depression, sex, death, and failed relationships. The stop-start electro-pop single ‘UGH’ seemingly references Healy’s relationship with drugs as he prowls the stage singing lines like ‘Since your gums have lost their feeling, don’t say that you’re giving it up again’. Westlife this most certainly isn’t.
‘Heart Out’ and the glockenspiel backed early EP track ‘So Far (It’s Alright)’ keep the party atmosphere alive, before the retro 80s synth sounds of upcoming single ‘A Change Of Heart’ give the heaving crowd a chance to pause for breath. It’s a chilled-out ballad complete with dense vocal textures and sharp social commentary aimed at the narcissistic Instagram generation: ‘You said I’m full of diseases, Your eyes were full of regret, And then you took a picture of your salad, And put it on the internet. With two lengthily studio albums (each surpassing 15 tracks) and four EP releases, The 1975 are notably prolific in their output which means that some of the bigger tunes from their self-titled debut miss the cut tonight. Fan favourite ‘The City’ is notable by its absence while 2014 single ‘Settle Down’ is dropped (most likely due to the fact that new album track ‘She’s American’ is a loose musical rewrite of the same song). The slow-burning ‘Robbers’ sounds terrific in the arena-sized setting it was clearly written for, while the summertime pop of ‘Girls’ garners one of the biggest reactions of the night.
Aside from the songs and exemplary musicianship, one of the most impressive elements of tonight’s event is the scale of the stage setup. With a light show so utterly immersive and original, one would almost purchase tickets to witness its spectacle without a band on stage. The selection of neon-lit pillars with rich and varied colour palettes add a whole new dimension to every single song tonight and proves the band’s creative talents also encompass the visual elements of music.
The eclectic variety of styles on show tonight emphasises the band’s genre-hopping nature. From the meandering r ‘n’ b beats of ‘Menswear’, the tear-jerking new ballad ‘Somebody Else’ and the ‘m83 on downers’ brooding synth-lines of ‘Me’, each track is followed up by something markedly different. While some may revel in mocking the band due to the Twitter-obsessed teen contingent of their audience, one is unlikely to find an arena crowd with such knowledge of an act’s back catalogue. Each of tonight’s 22 songs are greeted with excited cheers and every album and EP track are known beat for beat and word for word. There are several moments tonight where The 1975 are so far ahead of their peers that you actually feel bad for the competition. The house-piano driven new single ‘The Sound’ has the entire floor bouncing as one before guitarist Adam Hann tears through an Eddie Van Halen-style solo lifted straight from an 80s movie, and the incendiary rendition of early single ‘Sex’ that brings the curtain down on the show is a masterclass in how to finish an arena rock headline set.
With a terrific new album flying off the shelves and the rest of the year set aside for heavy touring, The 1975 could very well find themselves ending the year as the biggest band in the world. More established modern rock heavyweights like Muse and Coldplay will be nervously looking over their shoulders at these new contenders gunning for the enviable ‘biggest band on the planet’ tag. On tonight’s evidence, few would bet against them achieving it. And sooner rather than later. An incredible show that could very well have the Irish gig of the year award sewn up by March.
Photos by Tudor Marian
Review by Gary O’Donnell