• Thu. May 30th, 2024

“Modernity has failed us.” The 1975, Live Review.

ByEliza Light

Feb 10, 2023
The author's be real, with a view of the 1975

The 1975’s frontman Matty Healy chain-smokes, mumbles and stumbles across the stage wearing his customary oversized black suit and drinking red wine from the bottle. It is definitely obnoxious, but Healy wants to be obnoxious. In fact, that is part of the appeal. There is a crude allure to him, and it is not because Matty Healy himself is crudely alluring, but because The 1975 is emblematic of a distinctive teenage angst that has not really been replicated by any other pop rock band in recent years. 

Depending on who you ask, though, opinion of Healy generally falls into one of two categories. Either a) he is one of the greatest performers of our time, whose song-lyrics are better read like poetry, or pages from a novel or, b) one of most objectionable and pretentious celebrities of recent years: a nepotistic hedonist. Everyone in this arena insists on the former.

Nevertheless, looking out into the abyss of his reverential audience Healy declares, “None of this is real”. Gesturing, picking at the fabric of the curtain behind him, he warns us: “None of what you think you see is real”. The set itself is supposed to mimic the skeleton of a two-storey house which the band members interact with throughout – switching on and off lampshades and opening doors to let others in. Lemsip in one hand he now turns and speaks directly into the camera, “Let’s break the fourth wall here… I’m very ill… that’s definitely real, but everything else in life is very very constructed”. 

Despite Healy making us irrevocably aware of the fact his character is fictional, we still cannot help but participate in the theatricality. So, the red wine? Potentially just juice. Then, the drunkenness? Most likely performative. How about the slab of raw meat Healy gnaws on like a wild, fatigued animal? Probably a gummy sweet. And yet we still cheer and scream, as though we’re at a pantomime, for the band to play ‘Paris’ over ‘A Change of Heart’. Healy explains that his sound technician will track which song receives a louder applause, and then the band will play that one. ‘Paris’ wins. At least this moment is definitely real.

Now, Healy is touching himself. The orchestral music reaches a symphonic climax. His eyes are closed; huge projections of him hang either side of the stage, dwarfing the tiny body which wriggles on the black leather sofa. “I don’t want to do this anymore”, he mouths. TikTok comments provide solace for worried fans insisting that he’s just method-acting. 

Halfway through the set, the lights are dimmed, and lead guitarist Adam Hann plays a soft, atmospheric interlude. People in long white cloaks, moving in perfectly straight lines, glide across the stage: part-surgeon, part-robot. This moment functions almost like the interval in a theatre, but one in which everyone in the audience is completely present, waiting for our show’s hero – Healy himself – to make some sort of monologue. 

But then my phone vibrates in my back pocket: BeReal. The spell is broken. Immediately, murmurs begin around us as people signal excitedly to their friends. Naturally, I upload my BeReal within the designated two minutes. My photo sits, quietly gloating, amidst the other faces on my timeline, affirmed by obligatory smiley faces and absent-minded thumbs-up icons. I look up from my phone and almost everyone in the arena is doing the same thing. We are all each other’s replicas, grinning into our phones and then quickly flashing our cameras at the stage. The surge of endorphins I had felt just seconds before dip quite suddenly. 

Maybe I’m just being cynical. After all, this app (with the very function of capturing real moments in real time) has served its purpose perfectly. Yet, the irony is almost sickening. Yes, we’re all using the app in real time – we are being real, but we’re not…really…if we’re really being honest. This is just a convenient blip. Worse still, I cannot help but feel that if BeReal had notified us all earlier in the day, most people in this room would have just saved theirs to take during the concert anyway. I wince when I think about one of my favourite lyrics from ‘A Change of Heart’, the song which this audience didn’t choose: “You said I’m full of diseases/ Your eyes were full of regret/ And then you took a picture of your salad and put it on the Internet.” Matty Healy would hate us.

The show ends with crowd-favourite ‘Give Yourself a Try’, and afterwards the lights slowly fade in on the auditorium, awkwardly, almost apologetic. It is as if Healy is trying to say: you are not the audience, you are actors too. The lights have come on, and we’re all on the stage.

After the show, I look over the set list which is published online. I notice that the song we had selected together as an audience – ‘Paris’ – is literally in the set list, and underneath is written ‘(audience vote over A Change of Heart)’. The one moment that felt truly real was not, and the realisation of this is both cruel, and equally marvellous. Healy was right: none of this was real, and to quote one of his most famous lyrics: “Modernity has failed us”, really and truly. 

Image courtesy of Eliza Light