Saturday 28 September 2013

Live Review: The 1975, O2 Academy Bristol 26/09/2013

It feels like a lifetime ago that I had last had the chance to catch The 1975 live, albeit only being 8 months previous in a packed out Exchange in Bristol. A lot has happened since then. With a handful of further EP releases and a debut album rocketing to number 1 in the UK album charts the band have excelled everyone's expectations as they've exploded from the underground to the mainstream. As I headed back to the city for a sold out O2 Academy show it's clear to see just how popular the band have become as this same scene has run up and down the country on their full capacity tour.

As I drop my coat off in the cloak room the first support came in the form of Oxford's MMX. Their soft and fluctuating rhythms glide effortlessly over the sea of quieting voices in the crowd as they begin to warm to their pulsating synths. Not to take anything away from their recordings but their music sounds a lot more immediate in a live setting. The build ups are more intense and the quiet mid sections are met with ever evoking melodic guitars. As the band move through a canorously sweet set front man Ashley Wilkie delivers his moody yet equally emotive vocals as the audience nod along. As they depart the stage we're left with the one guitarist plucking away as we get a breakdown of their music at its intricate heart as each section slowly drops away. A promising performance as they start to pick up recognition surely earning themselves some new fans tonight.

Next up was Night Engine. Now I don't like to write critical reviews but I'm not entirely sure what the London four piece were trying to achieve. With the lead singer belting out cockney-esque vocals like a Vyvyan Basterd of the Young Ones on speed I wasn't left overly impressed. They're basslines are quite funky and there's a definite energy in the band but with much of their songs lasting for what felt like an average of 5 minutes much of this dissipated quite rapidly and didn't transfer to the crowd. Towards the end of their set the brash synths were greatly reduced and there was a lot more rhythm in their music, maybe a little too late though. I'm sure if there was more direction I would have enjoyed them a lot more.

After a slightly longer wait between acts and anticipation at an all time high the Manchester four-piece finally emerged to an overwhelming welcome form the crowd. The band wave and get straight to work as they kick things off with The City, It's big hitting kick drums become just about audible over the screams and cheers. Without a moment to breath we're quickly thrown in to Milk. One of my favourites from the band, its short and snappy guitars providing just enough time to loosen up your body and dance. With The 1975 drawing in a wide variety of fans from all musical backgrounds there's an odd cross section here tonight. From teens to adults, students to parents, but one thing's for certain, the atmosphere is electric as the sea of mobile phones and cameras rise and fall throughout. As Healy proclaims his gratitude, profusely thanking the crowd declaring that they're coming to the end of over a year out on the road we gain no signs of wear and tear as the power through their set in a sublime manner.

It's fantastic to see how their confidence has grown tenfold since the last time I saw them as they swagger around the stage, Healy getting on top of a monitor speaker to take a selfie with his Polaroid camera. As the heat rises so does the intensity with album track Heart Out creating an unrivalled force through its driving bassline and immersing chorus, the band sounding pitch perfect. Settle Down proves to be as equally devastating with its infectious guitar riff tears through the screams in the audience. If you're stood still at this point then you're probably at the wrong gig as I challenge anyone able to resist dancing to its jangly rhythms. Dubbed an anthemic stadium-esque band in their early stages it's clearly evident tonight as to why as they echo around Bristol's lofty Academy.

Possibly my favourite track from their debut, Robbers, sounds equally as emotive live as it does on record. And that's what I love about this band. They don't hide behind a barrage of studio effects on stage. What you have is raw, pure emotion bundled up to an evocative talent all demonstrated perfectly in Fallingforyou. As the crowd quiet down and get a moment to breath through its swirling synths and sparse drum hits Matthew Healy captures the heart and soul of everyone inside with his swelling vocals rising to dizzying heights.

Playing through the majority of the album's bigger tracks (which, let's face it, is pretty much all of them) it's still safe to say Chocolate and Sex are the biggest hits of the night. As an ocean of hands and arms flail around at the center stage the band round up their energetic show in a clean cut, affectionate way. Granted there's been little interaction throughout the night apart from a line here and there amongst the thank yous as the band deliver a vigorous set but they seem genuinely humbled by the appreciation they receive. Maybe a little bewildered and still in shock from the success they're currently revelling in. As the crowd disperse to the Bristol streets I can leave pleased knowing The 1975 delivered one of the best live shows I've seen this year and I'm sure many will share this same view. Something I can't wait to repeat in the new year.

The band play the following dates in February 2014:

Fri 7th - Glasgow - Academy
Sat 8th - Aberdeen - Music Hall
Mon 10th - Newcastle - O2 Academy
Tue 11th - Sheffield - O2 Academy
Wed 12th - Birmingham - O2 Academy
Thu 13th - Cardiff - Great Hall
Fri 14th - Bournemouth - Academy
Sat 15th - Norwich - UEA


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