The BIC, Bournemouth - 09/01/2023
On Monday night (09/01), Manchester quartet The 1975, made their return to the seaside town of Bournemouth for another sold-out show at the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC).
Split into two acts and completed with innovative set design and maybe the most creative use of staging in a gig ever, it’s essentially a show within a show. The first hour sees a theatrical take on the band’s most recent record, Being Funny In A Foreign Language and conceptually, the stage depicts a house complete with two floors. As the band walk onstage one by one, it seems like a sitcom set; each member comes through the door in the ‘hallway’ and are introduced on the plasma screens either side of the arena’s stage.
Throughout the set, charismatic frontman, Matty Healy, chain smokes and drinks from both a hip flask and a bottle of wine, before many of the on-stage antics begin, that fans of the band on TikTok and Twitter will be f; Healy sits in front of a television set and watches it from an onstage armchair, climbs on the roof to perform a stunning, stripped back rendition of I Like America (And America Likes Me), pretends to have sex, takes his shirt off, and even does press-ups live to the crowd before climbing inside one of the television screens. It’s near impossible to take your eyes off the stage, and you’re left wondering whether it can get any weirder…before it does just that.
During All I Need To Hear, a tender love song, the number is brought to a halt, Healy acting as though he has forgotten the lyrics and the band gearing up to do a re-take. “Wrong note. Wrong note”, he sighs as extras wearing white coats come onstage, some with cameras, some coming on to take Healy’s jacket from him and others to tidy up the set before the “second take”. This interlude is even completed with a clapper board, which is met with an eruption of laughter from the crowd.
It’s the kind of gimmick that only a band like The 1975 could pull off; Matty Healy, whilst pretentious and obnoxious to some, comes across as completely unserious, presenting a real irony that fits in with the band’s new music and almost pokes fun at the aesthetic and tidiness of the band a decade ago.
Despite the first half being predominantly new material, the music played is still so identifiably The 1975. Oh Caroline is a glistening pop anthem that gets the crowd dancing and singing along, Part Of The Band features some already fan-favourite lyrics, dare I say on the same level as “but he works in a petrol station/(selling petrol)” from It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You), and Looking For Somebody (To Love) receives the same level of head-banging and jumping around the pit as cult-favourite Sex does during an encore. It really does prove that even though you never know what you’re going to get when it comes to the four best-friends (and their touring musicians) from Wilmslow, due to their genre-less sound and their ventures to the outside of the box, the songs always thrive in the end, especially in arenas like this.
During album closer, When We Are Together, the band leave the stage until only Matty is left behind, singing a stripped-back, extended outro of the chorus, with assistance from the crowd. Bassist, Ross, walks around the set, switching off each lamp one by one, before making his exit. A delicate performance from Matty of Be My Mistake proceeds. The girl who sobbed throughout the previous track, standing next to me, continues. It’s an intimate and beautiful moment.
Following the exit and entrance, Matty introduces the audience to “The 1975 at their very best,” thus kicking off Act Two, as the opening to If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) is met with an eruption of screaming. It’s a reaction that continues for the remainder of the night and sees those who opted to stay seated for the first half to get on their feet and give the last hour everything they’ve got.
Act Two is also where things get much more laid-back and more loose; there’s no carefully planned out interludes or acting, it’s just an all-round good time. This half of the set also makes up for the lack of audience interaction in the beginning.
No matter what you think of him, undoubtably, Matty Healy is one of the greatest showmen and frontmen of our generation. In an amusing segment, he puts it down to the audience to choose between two loved tracks from 2017’s I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It, Paris and A Change Of Heart. Asking the crowd to scream for the one they want, he goes on to exclaim, “Oh spicy! This is how democracy works and sometimes it feels very very unfair”, before announcing A Change Of Heart as tonight’s winner (and then going on to joke that instead he was going to play the Chocolate remix).
Notoriously online, Healy has been kissing members of the audience during the nostalgic and yearningly romantic classic, Robbers. After performing a passionate rendition with the crowd screaming every single lyric, he takes the phone from someone in the front row. “I can’t give you a kiss, but there’s a number for a really good therapist!” he deadpans.
It’s impressive just how good The 1975’s decade spanning discography is. I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes) is a cathartic, end of a coming-of-age movie track that leaves you feeling like a main character, whilst Love It If We Made It is a powerful, angry and sadly realistic release that stands out amongst some of the band’s more idealistic songs. 2017 hit single, The Sound, offers up an energised, glittering pop moment, with Healy commanding every single member of the audience to jump on the count of four, simply with the words, “One, two, one, two, fucking jump!” (to which they do without a heartbeat of hesitation).
Closing with Sex, a track that has been around almost as long as the band, it’s made very clear how apt the name of this tour is. Whilst it may appear pretentious or a bit too bold, The 1975 At Their Very Best is exactly what you’re paying for. The atmosphere, the fan connection and obviously the set design and production itself delivers a uniquely satisfying approach to arena shows, exploring the art form of music, whilst delivering the hits that will still be embraced in years to come. The 1975 have set the bar impeccably high for tours yet to come this year.