The 1975 turn back the clock at Reading 2023

Turning back the clock to a simpler time proves that – without the circus that’s developed around them – The 1975 still know how to deliver.

Words: Abigail Firth.
Photos: Patrick Gunning.

“Uh oh” says Matty Healy before launching into ‘The City’. It’s the collective emotion as The 1975 take to Reading’s headline slot for the second (surprise) consecutive year. These days, booking the band tends to involve hoping Matty Healy won’t manage to find a way to create a new point of collective outrage in his continuing headline-grabbing narrative, a promise he manages to keep tonight.

With that in mind, it’s clear why, after the events of the last few months, they’d want to go back to a simpler time, this year’s headline set honouring (most of) their debut album ‘The 1975’ from a decade ago. The album played largely in order, not stopping at the tracks but bringing back the old logo, rectangle imagery and stage manner (cue Matty swigging from a bottle of red wine sporadically throughout). 

Back in 2013, the group still divided opinion, the albatross they never quite managed to shake, but the people who ‘got’ it back then still get it now. Despite everything, it’s undeniable that every bit of the debut still goes off. The tracks that usually make up the encore like ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Sex’ arrive in the first half, but there’s no energy dip afterwards. Songs that have remained locked away or only occasionally given an outing since the debut years like ‘M.O.N.E.Y’’, ‘Menswear’ and ‘Pressure’ are played to a crowd who’ve either been hungry for them for a long time, or missed them the first time around.

While the debut wasn’t sonically groundbreaking, it laid the foundations for the bangers that’d come in their more experimental records as the years went on, proving that if they just wanted to do big pop bops, they could. That proof comes in the second act as they run through a similar greatest hits set to the one they’ve been touring since they jumped in at Reading this time last year.

‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’ catapults The 1975 into another set of back-to-back bangers, including the usuals like ‘Happiness’ and ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’. Sincerity may be scary, but Matty does rustle up a bit of it to shout out friend of the band Lewis Capaldi and his well-deserved break, the reason the boys are here tonight. It’s refreshing to watch a whole show without any major Matty tangents and a dropping of ‘the act’ that’s dominated the maelstrom of opinion around the band of late for at least a couple of hours.

A lot has changed in ten years, but as Matty mentions, the internet has done its thing, and the album still resonates now. It was the start for a band always destined for huge things and one of the few from the early 2010s crop who’ve clung onto their relevance, regardless of how many hiccups there’ve been along the way. So as ‘About You’ kicks in, the thematic callback to self-titled’s ‘Robbers’ that went as viral on TikTok as it’s predecessor’s lyrics and neon rectangle did on Tumblr, it does feel like The 1975 could pull it back, if the turnout tonight isn’t proof that they have already.