The band's biggest ever headline show brought irony, sincerity and everything in-between
The 1975’s Finsbury Park show came at the end of a weekend of massive, high-profile performances from Jamie T and Pulp. But for Matt Healy and his band, their biggest headline set also came at a time when their appeal feels at its most divisive.
Kissing audience members, sucking on their fingers, long rants, eating raw meat and other onstage antics from the At Their Very Best tour aside, the controversy from Healy’s appearance on the The Adam Frieland Show hasn’t gone away. Plus the are-they-aren’t-they rumours surrounding his relationship with Taylor Swift aren’t exactly helping him keep a low profile…
But whether you like it or not, poking and prodding, baiting and trolling, has always been a part of Healy’s obsession with irony. On stage, this manifests on several levels. From the off, it’s clear his Finsbury performance is another exercise in meta-narrative, as the exceptionally detailed set is revealed and a cast of crew members in white coats, including Healy and the band, make finishing touches.
It looks something like a midcentury take on a John Hughes movie, spacious but filled with comfortable furnishings and old VHS playing televisions. The theatricality of the family home seems appropriate, as it springboards Healy’s immersion into the prodigal son archetype; swigging red wine from the bottle in the spirit of the reckless rockstar, but wearing a faint expression of remorse as he does it.
This takes on a whole new meaning when the frontman’s father, the actor Tim Healy, joins the stage to sing croon ‘All I Need To Hear’ as if it’s from the Great American Songbook. As he takes a seat with the sun beaming down on him, his dad is clearly a natural performer too, but then the screens reveal Healy looking on and crying. Is he genuinely moved by the moment or is this too for show? Or both?
Ultimately, the immense Finsbury Park crowd doesn’t care, as they fervently enjoy and sing along to every line of ‘Love Me’, ‘I’m In Love With You’ or ‘Oh Caroline’ in the golden-hour glow.
Even Healy himself seems to break character. After half an hour or so admits “It’s really hard to do the first half of this show when I’m supposed to be all nihilistic and dour… Who gives a f*ck? This is too fun to do that.” That much is fact, as The 1975’s biggest ever crowd are reeling, only intensifying as the band continue to break the fourth wall. One couple at the front even get engaged in a she said yes moment, which Healy spots and directs a camera their way for us all to see.
We clap today’s support bands, which we’re lead to believe Healy handpicked. Fair play, it was an impressively built line-up, with Midwest emo demigods American Football, of whom The 1975 are outspoken fans, kicking things off early with an eerie atmosphere of punchy and twinkly precision. Dirty Hit signing The Japanese House is understandably received a little more enthusiastically – you’d never believe from their reception that songs from In The End It Always Does were only released on Friday. Bleachers add some overly sentimental albeit slick pop anthems, while Cigarettes After Sex cleanse the palate with their trademark calm.
As the evening draws to a close, candid moments such as a shout out to Lewis Capaldi get muddled back in with the performance, all with the alleged irony. Healy watches warped clips of Andrew Tate on a VHS player and mentions something about having sex with a girl in a van. The raw tomahawk steak returns before he crawls through a trap door in a tele. But then he and the band give performances of tracks such as ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ that genuinely feel like it’s the most heartfelt they’ve ever played them.
“I was always trying stuff,” he says, as if addressing this predicament. “Some stuff I got right and some stuff I got wrong. But you know what, there’s a lot of things that I’ve said, jokes that I’ve made, that I would take back. There’s probably a couple of f*cking songs that I’d take back if I had the choice. I’m only doing this because I want to make you guys laugh and feel good, because that’s what my favourite art does. I get a bit excited. You know what, I’m f*cking proud of myself.”
For all of their unarguably well-crafted songs, The 1975 are a band you need to buy into. If you entered Finsbury Park today as a skeptic, then you would only leave it stronger in that conviction. Likewise, if you were one of the 45,000 fans in attendance today, that adoration has become shatterproof.