The 1975 have always chased big.
With each studio album, the four-piece have gotten broader and more experimental to the point that their recent ‘Music For Cars’ era saw them release thirty-seven vastly different tracks over two records – 2018’s ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’ and 2020’s ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’. At the same time, their live shows have pushed the boundaries of gigantic technical spectacle and community.
By contrast, ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’ was something of a reset. A back-to-basics record that saw the band shrug off political grandstanding and generational worries and replace them with the occasional dick joke. It was direct, but never simple. Likewise, their At Their Very Best world tour sees The 1975 turn left instead of seeing how much bigger they can grow things.
Split into two acts, the first is a surprisingly nuanced showcase of their new album, played out like a West End play. Set in a big townhouse, complete with staircase, numerous televisions and a sofa, The 1975 are expanded to an eight-piece band tonight in Brighton for the first date of their UK tour and each member is introduced like the audience is watching a sitcom.
During the first hour of the show, there are some not-so-subtle nods to American Psycho as vocalist Matty Healy channels his inner Patrick Bateman and mocks outdated ideas of masculinity by eating a fistful of steak, touching himself on the sofa (yes, Denise Welch is at the show) and doing push-ups in front of a screen that shows images of Prince Andrew, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Andrew Tate, before he climbs through the screen itself.
“Men are confused,” he explains later. “If you’re on the left, it’s confusing because the right are a lot better at adopting that floundering sense of masculinity. It’s twelve rules of how to be a dude,” he continues before admitting, “all I do is watch shit and wank.” It’s hard to know how seriously to take him, though. Earlier in the show, he started a sincere speech about method acting before someone yelled cut, and an army of labcoat-wearing stagehands appeared to adjust everyone’s hair, makeup and position. “If you make a show that’s essentially about your life, are you acting?” he questions, further tumbling down the meta rabbit hole.
It sounds outrageous and complicated, but for the most part, the first chunk of The 1975’s show is dominated by visceral emotion. From self-referential, apologetic opener ‘The 1975’ to the gooey ‘Oh Caroline’ and stunning ‘I’m In Love With You’, the nine tracks aired from ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’ couldn’t be more direct. Peppered with the more vulnerable songs from their back catalogue (‘fallingforyou’, ‘I Like America & America Likes Me’, ‘I Couldn’t Be More In Love’), it’s a powerful 60 minutes that makes you question everything you thought you knew about The 1975, soundtracked by some of their finest work.
A switch is flipped for the second half, for an expanded run-through of their greatest hits that acts as an impossible-to-ignore statement of why The 1975 are so adored and how they made it this far. Polished, pristine and giddy, the likes of ‘The Sound’, ‘If You’re Too Shy’, and ‘Give Yourself A Try’ are as euphoric as ever while Matty makes an impassioned, pro-strike speech before a fiery ‘Love It If We Made It’. “Being anti-Tory isn’t a hot take,” he offers.
For the longest time, the takeaway message from a The 1975 show was that they were the biggest and best band in the world. This tour is different, though. Yes, The 1975 are still utterly brilliant, and they’ve got no shame in admitting it either, but tonight asks more questions than it answers. As Matty explains, “it’s definitely not a festival set”, but it’s not inaccessible either. It is “a show about a show” that’s also just a fantastic rock show. Constantly evolving (it’s already very different to the US leg of the tour), it’s impossible to predict where the band and the gigs will go next, but it’s already a must-see event. At Their Very Best feels like The 1975’s biggest swing yet.