Review: The 1975 @ Manchester Apollo

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This week has seen indie rock band the 1975 return to their hometown, with four sell-out nights at the O2 Apollo in Manchester.

They are preceded by an energetic performance from Circa Waves who are an appropriate choice for a support group – their music shares the youthful energy of the headliners. Their brand new single ‘So Long’ went down particularly well and was a satisfying end to their set.

But onto the main event. I’ve never thought the acoustics in the Apollo are particularly flattering, but the 1975 make the very best of them. It’s always easy to highlight the singer, but it has to be said that frontman Matt Healy’s vocals really are on the money; as flawless as his studio recordings, without being a complete mimic – what more can you ask for?

Well if we’re being demanding, I guess we could ask for him to dance. There’s only one Liam Gallagher after all. Fortunately, Healy’s got the moves covered too, as do guitarists Adam Hann and Ross MacDonald – it’s hard to tell who’s enjoying it more, them or the fans. Unfortunately, rather than watching the expressions of four guys soak in the reality of how many people a number one album can bring to a venue, the majority of the night is spent watching their moving silhouettes. The back of the stage is lit with five rectangles to represent their album cover – iconic maybe, but with very few lights from the front of stage and an unwanted level of smoke, it means a lot of these dance moves are going to waste. George Daniel could be stark-bollock-naked behind his shadowy drum kit for all we know.

But maybe this is what they were going for, and if so, fair play. (Moody lighting that is, not nude percussionists). It’s certainly atmospheric, and fits with how the majority of their videos have been shot in black and white. It puts the main focus on the music, which of course is respectable – the opposite of Robbie Williams flying round on a wire to distract from the fact he went out of tune half an hour ago.

Not that there was any ‘focusing’ needed on the music as such: the fans knew every word, not just to singles ‘Girls’ and ‘Chocolate’ (both of which were left until the end), but also unreleased songs like ‘Menswear’ and ‘She Way Out’ – their album is clearly one that gets played from start to finish. I detected a slight dip in audience enthusiasm towards the middle, possibly because a lot of their songs share the same mid-tempo. Healy once said that their album feels like a collection of singles, which is all well and good, but non-singles are important too for a varied sound. The band does take it down a notch for the psychedelic synths of ‘Me’ and ‘fallingforyou’, but these songs were placed next to each other, so two opportunities for breathing spaces became one.

But the Apollo was well and truly eating of the 1975’s silhouetted hands by the end of the night. Particularly the teenage girls, screaming “we want Sex!” repeatedly while waiting for the encore; referring to the fan-favourite single of course. (At least I think so.) The audience was by no means akin to that of a One Direction concert though – there were lots of fans of both genders in their twenties and beyond.

It’s not often you find a band with this kind of eclectic fanbase who also maintain the divided attention of the music press, but the 1975’s illuminated right-angles seem to have covered all angles, and there’s no end in sight. Last year they played Manchester Ritz, earlier this year they did the Academy, and now four nights at the Apollo. Give it a year or so, and there’s a good chance we’ll see them at the Phones 4 U Arena (or whatever it becomes after its imminent name change). All they’d have to do is turn a few more lights on then there’s something to see on the screen.

The 1975 will be back for more this Friday and Saturday. Although sold out, there’s a few tickets being sold on Viagogo. Their support, Circa Waves, will be playing Gorilla on Friday, week 5 – tickets are available here

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Simon James

Any excuse to write about Oasis really.

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