For the third time in the last four lineups, The 1975 are playing Reading and Leeds. The circumstance for this happening is far more complex than just lazy booking, with Rage Against The Machine pulling out at the last minute in 2022 and Lewis Capaldi, who The 1975’s frontman Matty Healy dedicates their set to tonight, taking a step back from performing after, quite rightly, deciding to prioritise his mental health this year.
In that spirit, grumbles about seeing the Cheshire indie-pop crew on the bill once again seem slightly unfair. And, to The 1975’s credit, they haven’t just decided to turn up and plop out any old set to fill time; with it being a decade since they released their self-titled debut, an album that has gained classic status in the eyes of their adoring fanbase, they are playing it in its entirety this evening. So, hey: what’s not to like?
Well, to many, Healy himself is the problem at the root of The 1975's place in music in 2023. It’s hard to think of a more divisive figure in popular music than young Matthew right now: he kisses people in the wrong place at the wrong time, he goes on podcasts and talks about pulling his willy to grotty things, he did a Nazi salute on stage (it might have been 'ironic', but he still did it!). All in all, he's perceived by many to be something of a wrong'un.
With all this information swilling round your brain, it’s quite odd to go and actually see Healy perform and witness, rather than the second coming of GG Allin, quite simply a very good songwriter with an unusual and slightly disheveled onstage demeanour. Healy pulls funny faces, swigs out of a wine bottle, huffs fags, staggers around and mumbles whatever has just entered into his head between each song throughout the show. But, crucially, he sings and plays said songs rather sweetly and earnestly. At one point he breaks a mic stand and pretends to be Freddie Mercury; it’s quite funny and clearly happens completely off the cuff. He feels like the exact intersection between Justin Bieber and Shane MacGowan; an engaging and charismatic, if slightly unconventional, pop star.
Yes, The 1975 are ultimately stood up playing stages like these because of the cult of Healy’s personality, but also because they are insanely talented songwriters. Ten years in, the tunes from their first album still sound brilliantly box-fresh and timeless; Chocolate, Girls, Robbers, all are greeted by screams and mass sing-a-longs. They’re classics at this point. And, with 40 minutes left to play after their run through the record, a mini greatest hits set chocked with Oh Caroline, If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know), It’s Not Living (If It’s Not with You) and more is a fantastic way to close and bring a joyous sense of euphoria to a packed field on a Saturday night. If The 1975 were booked again for 2024, you wouldn’t get many people here complaining. Low on controversy, high on massive tunes, this is exactly what you’d have hoped for.
The 1975 Reading Festival 2023 setlist
1. The City
6. Heart Out
7. Settle Down
10. She Way Out
13. It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)
15. I'm In Love With You
16. Oh Caroline
17. If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)
18. I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)
19. About You