Review By Nikki Eenik
I was blessed to be able to see the “Best Band in The World”; The 1975 (according to The 1975 front man Matty Healy) during their first Melbourne show at Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday night. Turns out, as revealed during the show, Matty Healy used to live in Melbourne – information very much not known. So now you know! Hometown show!
A note before I continue! If you are an epileptic, do not go and see this show, there is a lot (and I mean, a lot of strobe). Live through this review and their Spotify repertoire instead. J
If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, or if you know me in real life, you’ll know I’m something of a Sad-Girl-Pop Connoisseur. So, having Wallice, as an opener was an especially tasty treat. Wallice is the alias of Los Angeles born-and-raised singer-songwriter, Wallice Hana Watanabe. She is described on The 1975’s event-page as “indie-pop wunderkind”, and has been described in NME as a “future alt-pop hero”. Clearly, she is a hot up-and-comer, and everybody knows it. She has the cutest aesthetic I’ve ever seen at such a large stadium show. Cowgirl hats, Americana-esque patterns and cuts are all the norm for Wallice’s wardrobe. Tonight, she is donning a mini-skirt with a deep purple crop-top; complete with ruffles, puffy shoulders and starched buttons. Very Founding-Fathers-Meets-Indie-Darling-Core. I’m obsessed. As a Japanese woman, it is so clear that Watanabe embraces and celebrates her Asian heritage – because her entire backing band are also all Asian femme-presenting musicians. During her final number, smash hit 23, she shreds guitar back-to-back with her other guitarist and bassist. It’s such a wonderful celebration of feminity. Seeing girls in skirts shredding up a storm made me feel a special kind of powerful, it spoke to Little Me who had seen far-too-few women playing for huge crowds, in all their hyper-femme glory. We were treated to an almost 40-minute set, with a personal favourite, Best Friend, and Funeral – “This next song is Funeral and it’s my favourite song I’ve ever made!” Watanabe gleefully proclaimed before launching into her penultimate musical number. Consider Wallice Sad-Indie-Girl-Pop Expert Approved.
Front-man Matty Healy begins the set alone, after a video plays on all four of Rod Laver’s massive projection screens of him meandering out of the greenroom – glass of wine in hand. A single spotlight lights up the set, a stripped-down version of their concert-concept; a living room, complete with coffee table and lamp, as opposed to an entire house which can be spotted in the European and North American legs of the tour. The girl behind me begins screaming so intensely at the idea of Healy coming on stage, her friend has to hold her up. “We’ve been exploring being a man, being famous, being obnoxious”, Healy begins, leisurely reclining on the sofa. “This show, this concept, is a call for something sincere and direct”. Be My Mistake is such a beautiful opener to the set. Performed stripped down, with just an acoustic guitar, with harmonics courtesy of all those in attendance. Healy smiles listening to an entire stadium sing along with him; You do make me hard/ But she makes me weak.
Then the rest of the band comes out, and wow are they an absolutely ferocious unit. So musically tight, each providing such a crucial musical element to the show. I couldn’t imagine even being one-man down. Speaking of one man. The 1975 saxophonist, John Waugh, if you’re reading this review, call me on 04** *** ***. This man was the absolute highlight of the night for me. He was killing it, improvising and layering on top of everything from tear-jerking ballads to undeniable bops, jumping from alto saxophone, to clarinet, to tenor saxophone and back again. My jaw is still on the floor. But every member of the band is stellar, and we are treated to a new member for this tour, female guitarist Polly Money. She’s amazing, I hope she stays on for many tours to come.
As Healy winds his way through cigarettes, glasses of wine, and flasks of whiskey, the band winds their way through 6 albums worth of music in 2-hour absolute extravaganza. A feast for the senses, if you will. I was chuckling at Healy’s Morrissey-esque dancing, feeling my friend start to cry at Fallingforyou and spellbound by a never-before-heard arrangement of Paris. The band is also not afraid to play instrumental tracks like An Encounter. They’re taking us on a ride.
Healy proclaims, “There’s quite a lot of people here, isn’t there?” And he’s met with screams of joy. after being the perfect cocktail of pleased and shocked. In response he yells back “We are the best looking band from Manchester!” (No one tell Liam Gallagher) While this fact is completely not-provable by science, it is absolutely provable that there are some hardcore fans in the building tonight. The camera, when not focussed on the band – distorted video, black-and-white avante garde meets 70’s psychedelic lag makes it seem like there are trails following each of the musicians, is completely obsessed with this one fan. Front-and-centre, pushed against the barricade, sweaty, screaming every word, wearing one of the best pieces of merch currently on the market – a shirt that reads, Your Girlfriend’s Favourite Band. While I’m nowhere at her level, and was simply a casual listener, I fell in love with songs like I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes) and was possessed by groove to boogie along as much as my chair would allow.
Something I am though, is a Tumblr Teen. So when, at the end of the show, Healy slurs into the mic, “Does anyone remember 2013?” I know what’s coming. I feel my brain chemistry change. I am 14 years old again, editing my Tumblr html code, after a hard day of being sad and sweaty in Year 9 or whatever. “It feels like ya never left” And he’s right, as much as I try to delete the photos of my Facebook, the side-fringe-having-heavy-eyeliner-wearing teenage girl is alive and well under my front-fringe and septum piercing. The band finishes with Sex, and that teenage girl comes to the front. The Tumblr Girls are singing this time, some of the band’s later fans not understanding the vice grip The 1975’s 2013 self-titled album had on us, culturally. But I understand. We understand. What a cathartic moment.
And then, it ends. No encore, no nothing. Done. The end is marked only by Healy, “Give it up for the World’s Greatest Band, The 1975. We love you!” Walking out in a swarm of former early-Internet teens, new tiktok fans and goths. I am bleary-eyed from too much light exposure, but feel a side-fringe sized weight lifted from my shoulders.