“Some people create drama just so they can create content,” slurs The 1975’s Matty Healy before taking a slug on his now near-empty bottle of red wine and dragging on yet another cigarette. No shit, Matthew, we’re well aware of your work. Healy is a divisive character, whether he’s chomping on raw meat, aggressively fiddling with his balls on an onstage sofa or pulling fans up for a snog (something he doesn’t do tonight, instead putting the number for “a very good therapist” into the phone of a particularly keen audience member). In fact, he’s been causing headlines throughout his band's latest tour, ever since it started at the back end of last year. Tonight, as the circus rolls into the sleepy seaside town of Bournemouth, we get to see first-hand what all the fuss is about.
Presented as 'The 1975 At Their Very Best', the show comprises of two distinct sets; the first is a conceptual, theatrical run through the band's latest album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language, in its entirety, set in a mockup of Healy’s flat. The singer performs while chain smoking and glugging wine, watching telly, climbing up on the roof, rummaging around in his trousers and getting super-meta by stopping All I Need To Hear halfway through and having the stage reset as if we’re on a film set. It’s an interesting idea, taking cues from the performance art sets of Talking Heads and David Byrne, but the whole “Are we actors? Is this real? What is performance? What is reality?” portrait the band paints is, perhaps, not quite as clever as they think it is. It’s certainly engaging, though, and the set itself is wonderfully designed and beautifully realised. Some may argue it slightly distracts from the music, but these kinds of performances always live or die by the quality of material on offer, and luckily for The 1975, Being Funny In A Foreign Language is a tremendous album. Ultimately, as the night reveals once the quartet and their live musicians are stripped closer to bare bones, The 1975 are one hell of a pop-rock band.
Healy clearly revels in playing the part of debauched, enigmatic rock star, but while he may give off the exterior of Lou Reed, Thom Yorke or Morrissey, his songwriting soul is much more in line with Huey Lewis or Simon Le Bon; really, you don’t need to worry too much about being artistically challenging when you’ve got this many bangers. At the climax of the first set, after Healy dives through a TV, the overarching concept is ditched and The 1975 return to an empty stage, all sharply dressed in suits, to run through an all-killer, no-filler greatest hits set. Energy levels soar and it’s increasingly evident just how little they need to rely on anything other than their music. It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You) is the slinkiest, sweetest dance pop you’ll ever hear; Love It If We Made It sounds like The Weeknd and Trent Reznor’s angsty teenage son; and if your crotch doesn’t thrust like a horny alley cat on heat during closer Give Yourself A Try, then call a coroner. You are dead.
The evening's highlight, though, is second set opener If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know), a bombastic, wonderfully OTT piece of 80s-inspired, blue-eyed soul, with a sax solo so brilliantly technicolor it makes Ghost’s Miasma sound like it was performed on a kazoo by an out of shape asthmatic who's just jogged up 10 flights of stairs. It's a top tier modern pop anthem, and if Healy can continue writing singles as exceptional from hereon in, no matter how arch, meta or provocative he tries to be, it's ultimately what he’ll be remembered for. Love them or hate them, The 1975 are a fascinating band - always intriguing, original and impossible to ignore, but crucially delivering the tunes to back up the whole package. Healy is having his cake and eating it.