“I feel like Jesus Christ,” murmurs the thin young man on stage, face half hidden behind a cascade of black curls, a bottle of red wine in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other.
Matthew Healy, the voice of Manchester’s The 1975, is a remarkable frontman and an electrifying presence, moving on stage with the exuberance and showmanship of a young Mick Jagger and, whether likening himself to Jesus or joining the fans in a chant of “here we fucking go”, eliciting roars of approval from a truly adoring audience.
While The 1975’s set proves to be a superb piece of live performance, an hour and a half that passes all too quickly, both of the opening acts are excellent additions to the bill.
Y.O.U, the artistic moniker for Manchester’s Elliott Williams, is first on stage, with an exhilarating mix of rock and electro pop that calls to mind the recent work of French synth-rockers Phoenix, interestingly, Y.O.U’s debut album was largely recorded in Paris.
While Williams remains the mastermind behind Y.O.U, he’s backed by a remarkably tight and versatile band, blending synths, samples and live instrumentation to create an excitingly diverse sound.
Even with the audience yet to fully assemble, the crowd that is already present responds enthusiastically to the performance, pressing forward around the stage and dancing in an almost club-like atmosphere.
Manchester four-piece Circa Waves follow launching into their performance with unbridled enthusiasm and bringing an already swelling audience to life again after the lengthy changeover.
It’s evident from the outset that The 1975 and Circa Waves have some overlap within their fanbases, as a fair proportion of the audience clearly knows the lyrics, singing along with all but the band’s new material, of which the explosive ‘Fossils’ is a particular highlight.
‘Stuck In My Teeth’ is another highpoint of the set, and what these indie-rockers lack in variety within their material they compensate for with an engaging and energetic stage presence.
In the aftermath of Circa Waves’ set, the smoke machines begin to belch clouds of vapour until the stage is almost invisible within a dark grey fog, the audience becoming more excited with every passing minute, when at last the night’s headliners emerge from the shadows, Healy appearing last and clutching an already half-empty bottle of wine, the noise from the crowd is thunderous.
Playing a range of material that includes several gems from their first EPs as well as their debut album, the band display not only their musical ability and on-stage charisma, but a wonderful ability to work the crowd, with Healy in particular visibly delighted by the level of audience interaction taking place.
“We’re quite overwhelmed this evening,” Healy admits towards the end of the set, before personally thanking the fans for their support.
“We’ve been trying to do this for ten years,” he says, “and you are the only people who understand what we’re trying to do.”
Though Healy is the only member of the band interacting with the audience, chatting throughout the night and throwing numerous bottles of water out into the crowd, the rest of the group work relentlessly to create a thrilling and often moving musical spectacle, with guitarist Adam Hann balancing his duties on lead with highly effective moments behind the keyboard.
While the band’s signature tracks ‘Chocolate’ and the infectiously catchy ‘Girls’ are superb in their live guises, the studio versions doing little justice to the celebratory anthems they prove themselves to be on stage, perhaps the most powerful moment of the night comes with their slower and more mellow material, “fallingforyou”, a synth-laced ballad from their EP IV, is a particular highlight, the chorus displaying Healy’s vocals at their best.
It’s no surprise that The 1975 have such a record of selling out their headline shows, with a tremendous stage presence, striking musical ability and a refreshingly unique sound, it’s hard to believe that the band’s debut album was released only last year.
Words: Malcolm Higgins
Photos: Jayjay Robertson