THE 1975: Finsbury Park, 02/07/23

Published on 15 July 2023 at 20:46

Words: Georgina Daniels


Finsbury Park, North London. Like its headlining act, the 115 acre green space has attracted plenty of controversy, with local community groups warning that Festival Republic’s five year deal poses significant challenges to the area. Local politics aside, the festival showcased excellent sound, production and festival amenities. After the gig ended, however… It was every man for themself in the mad dash to public transport links. 


No less shrouded by theatrics and drama, The 1975 were poised to deliver their biggest UK show to date, with an anticipated crowd of 50,000. It’s hard not to have heard of The 1975 without having some awareness of frontman Matt Healy’s dodgy antics, which have landed him in choppy waters. A simple Google Search should do the trick if you aren’t clued in. Yet during the course of the show, there were hints of accountability during his five minute ramble; only time will tell us what reformation comes along. 


The Cheshire based band chose well in picking support acts that represented various callbacks to their musical influences or collaborations past and present, including The Japanese House, Bleachers, Cigarettes After Sex, and American Football. I was most excited to see the latter midwest emo band, considering that the last time I saw them play their now-viral hit ‘Never Meant’, I was in the middle of dumping my first boyfriend. I was left feeling deeply nostalgic for this band’s impact on the genre, and on the headliners themselves. More on them in a bit!


Japanese House felt like the most captivating set of the day in bringing a fresh new sound to the table. Their playfully bright sonic visions, spiked with forlorn musings of heartbreak, dejection and woe made for the ultimate musical pairing. Having released their second LP just days before, In The End It Always Does sees Amber Bain and co. collaborate with the 1975’s drummer George Daniel both in the studio and live on stage; it made for quite the crossover episode.


Another mainstay in the 1975 circle of creatives (do we still include Taylor Swift in this?) welcomed Bleachers to the stage. Frontman and Grammy award-winning producer Jack Antonoff encouraged a wildly raucous crowd to let loose and clamber onto neighbouring shoulders during ‘Rollercoaster’. Bleachers would have been better fitted as main support based on this hype energy… What we got instead was one of the biggest let downs of the day. Cigarettes After Sex were uninspiring, dreary and lacked the necessary energy to prepare the audience for what was to come. They are a band that exist purely in their studio recordings, with little room to wow on stage. Bland and uninspiring should not have been words to use in the build up to such a hotly anticipated set. 


Finally, the moment came for Matt Healy and co to take to the stage. One by one, the band were introduced on screen with opening credits sitcom style, as Matt sat at the piano with a bottle in one hand, dangling a cigarette in the other. Set against the pristine white backdrop of a fictionalised ‘90s television show (repurposed from their January arena tour), the band arrived with a flurry of faux camera operators and makeup artists making a fuss over them. The exhaustive bit was short lived as they delved into songs from their newest album Being Funny in a Foreign Language. The band launched into ‘Looking For Somebody (To Love)’, a song steeped in sardonic quips at male gender expectations. After bashing out more songs in exact album order, the pace slowed to reveal flickers of emotion that ran deeper. Matty even brought out his dad for a crooner's duet of ‘All I Need To Hear’. Another family appearance was during ‘About You’ with Carly Holt (wife of guitarist Adam Hann). Whilst undoubtedly the most vulnerable points in the set, there was a lingering air of suspicion around how kosher this raw moment was. After all, the driving theme of The 1975’s current era and beyond is all about staging the perfect moment ready to make waves online and send the popular media into a flurry of conversation, or damage control. 


Despite the cynicism and ambivalence that has long been a feature of their fanbase, the fans turned out and turned up to accompany their favourite pop culture villain with an impassioned sing-along. There was a zeitgeist in the audience totally unmatched by the other bands on the lineup. It felt truly wholesome to witness fans unabashedly enjoying themselves. At the mid-way point of the gig, the camera crew set their lenses on a young couple at the barrier, who as it turns out, had just gotten engaged! It was a sweet gesture to keep them centred on the big screens in their purest moment of love; that was some big main character energy.


The rigour of the fans reached breaking levels at multiple points in the set when the band gifted fan service galore. Enduring hits like ‘Love Me’, ‘The Sound’, ‘Robbers’ ‘Sex’ and ‘Give Yourself A Try’ resonated off of every surface of the park. Frenzied fans allowed the music to take over in escapist joy. For two hours on the first Sunday of July, music lovers rejoiced in communal spirit over this rambunctious band. 


Ratty Matty Healy, together with his band mates, technical crew, management, festival staff and volunteers, delivered a high stakes gig, and undoubtedly, the band’s music strikes at the core of plenty of listeners. Yet for all the money, resources and funding thrown at these high production value gigs, there is an artificiality that cannot be scrubbed away. 


The 1975 certainly know the perfect equation for their live performances, but all high points must be followed with the lowest of lows. Whatever they do next, the world is watching Matt Healy very closely.

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