Matty Healy, the 1975’s studiedly louche frontman, was having his first close encounter with an Irish institution. “Olé, Olé, Olé,” chanted the crowd (there were a few scowling hold-outs). “F***ing hell,” replied Healy. “This isn’t a Charlatans gig….Why are you all singing in Spanish?”
Charlatans gig? Some cultural divides were clearly too wide to bridge in a single evening. Happily the awkwardness didn’t linger as the 1975 accelerated through a set of slick postmodern pop.
The 1975 could justifiably claim to be one of the biggest British bands of their generation. They are certainly of their moment, their twitchy, social anxious tunes vibrating with the cascading energy of an over-caffeinated Twitter stream. This perhaps raises questions about their longevity. But in the here-and-now Healy and company were irresistible.
They did, however, face a tricky balancing act. Some segments of the show were identical to their headline performance at last year’s Electric Picnic, such as when Healy synchronised bopped with two backing dancers during It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You).
Yet the Manchester group were also attempting to forge ahead by previewing material from this April’s Notes On A Conditional Form. The terrifyingly reductive power of the Internet was Healy’s obsession on their previous LP, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.
But they’re pushing on and looking inwards on the new record. That point was demonstrated by the more intimate and confessional The Birthday Party and Me & You Together Song. Still, politics hasn’t gone entirely off the radar, as they reminded fans with a spoken word warning from climate change activist Greta Thunberg.
Healy remained the lodestar. He has spoken about the battle in his head between the desire to be outrageous in public and his self-awareness about the absurdity of the pop star life.
Generally he got the balance right. He preened like a crowd-sourced Mick Jagger during melancholic stomper Somebody Else and threw himself about in the manner of a heartbroken rag-doll on Joy Division-adjacent Give Yourself A Try. The latter brimmed with anxiety but also with humanity and optimism. In so doing, it cut to the heart of what the 1975 are all about.