When the last three gigs you’ve seen have been monumental hard rock shows, walking into an arena full of teenagers can be a bit unnerving – you’ve got high expectations and know no matter what happens tonight these young ones are going to slate anyone that doesn’t agree. In truth you’re hoping to get blown away and not witness another saturated indie headliner in another popularity contest.
The mess outside alone was of massive proportions. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a dedicated fanbase queue but also depressing at the same time to see such mess left behind. Sleeping bags, backpacks, litter, remnants of teenagers with little consideration for the world around them. Today, it’s just them and The 1975.
With only one support despite doors opening a hour and half before the first act, we’re greeted by the quiet The Japanese House. As each song dwindles on and merges into one lifeless ensemble the crowd appear humdrum as well. A support act should warm up and engage a crowd and this band does neither. The vocals are so distorted and with the backing prominent is there really a point to them being on stage in the first place? I daydream and imagine hologram robots playing this “futuristic” electronic rock and things slightly improve, albeit just for a few minutes. Every now and again a slither of guitar shines through but even that sounds slapdash. The look of boredom from the crowd suggests this experimental side project should probably stay that way and wither away in the shadows.
In between setting up the band quickly stroll onstage with their tech guy dressed in full Santa gear to take a quick selfie to an eager arena. Screams erupt and we’ve still got twenty minutes to go yet.
An intriguing start to the show, a dull hypnotic hum fills the arena a few minutes prior the bands arrival and as they take the stage the hum drops – I admire the psychology behind it, calming and making the crowd aware it’s time.
It doesn’t take long for singer Matt Healy to parade around with a wine glass and serenade the crowd. Matt oozes glamour, alluring the front row as girls burst into tears within the first minute. A glimmer of phones from the front show many with The 1975 for backgrounds. A band easily to obsess over and notable to their recent popularity. They’ve had quite the year with latest album I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It – it’s has had a shower of love, even gaining the Manchester lot a Mercury Prize Nomination and many top charts. Their ambitions have taken them far and an arena tour is probably only the start of what they truly want.
Every song gets an overwhelming cheer, although mostly loud girl screams. Apparently they have attitude and charm but four songs in and all they can muster is lacklustre. Matt is the driving force on the stage tonight as the rest of the band fade into the light show. Songs bounce back and for, some you can imagine the promotional line ‘irresistible hooks’ was made for, others feel like soul-less robo-beats, at most mildly funky electro-pop.
Matt is clearly a smart guy, he doesn’t hesitate to make bold statements and act on them, he knows how to hook people in and how to achieve his ambitions. The influence on the youngsters is of incredible levels, ones in which politicians could only wish for. We’ve all seen the headlines from him saying he knows how pretentious he can be but unfortunately that era of trying to be ‘off the chain’ and ‘punk rock’ is gone. Calling yourself pretentious doesn’t excuse you for half arseing commitments, such as cancelling a sold out arena for a promotional gig.
Onward into the set and a burst of rainbow shines out towards the crowd whilst they sing loudly, affectionately at Loving Someone. Many more tears and screams once again fill the arena. It wasn’t a night to forget your ear plugs. Their light show is admirable, the most impressive aspect of the entire set in fact, changing from tower blocks, city landscapes to an array of colours creating a moody ambience. It was impressive, too impressive, to the point the band somewhat felt like they were relying on the light show to create a sterling rock show.
You’d think from a treacherous year I’d be able to find something as heinous to watch, but nothing came close as nauseating to watch as Matt Healy’s farcical headbang, off beat, only to be embraced by a barrage of girls screaming and crying. That bloke could kick a puppy and someone would cheer and come to running to his defence.
They do however perform a huge setlist, over twenty hits that includes a meaty encore. It’s admirable even if a long set can risk boredom from the more lacklustre tracks, but it certainly doesn’t effect their fanbase in the arena tonight.
Closing with their biggest hits Chocolate and The Sound it’s easy to see why they’ve become so popular with the younger generation. It’s just a shame they feel over shadowed on stage. In truth, this is the kind of show that conflicts me greatly. Parts cause in-human levels of rage whilst other moments impress and give me hope that a younger generation could be more politically in-tune.
Here’s to the future to prove everyone wrong.
The 1975With The Japanese House.
Cardiff Motorpoint Arena - 22nd December 2016
Photographer: Nadine Ballantyne - www.nadineballantyne.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nadineballantynephotography/