On Friday, The 1975 rocked their way back up to Manchester for the homecoming gig of their ‘At Their Very Best’ tour at the AO Arena and ‘my, my, my’ did they live up to the title of the show.
Returning for the first time since 2020, the band from Wilmslow were clearly committed to putting on a memorable show for the city they grew up in and which essentially put them on the map, with Matty Healy openly admitting: “I don’t need to tell you how big this gig for us”.
It certainly felt pretty momentous for the 20,000 or so of us watching.
The calm before the storm
While a mix of ambient and classic music played before they took the stage and opener Bonnie Kemplay delighted both her die-hards and won over plenty of new ears with her soft and soothing tones, it all felt like a calm before the storm as we knew the level of performance and pageantry that was in store.
We couldn’t have been more right, as despite having fallen ill overnight and being hopped up on Lemsip — he literally spent the first few songs sipping on a cold and flu drink — you couldn’t tell, as Healy’s energy levels looked just as electric as in the now-famed London show, if not even more so.
Not only did he grow into the gig as it went on, as typified by various costume changes (mostly just taking off his shirt), the trademark shaky knees dancing, swapping Lemsip for wine and cigs, as well as his general David Bryne-like eccentricities, but the whole show felt more like an ensemble performance.
From the way his various bandmates were introduced with opening credits as they walked through the various doors on the stage and fans screamed as each of their favourites switched on a light around the beautifully set design, to how they all gathered around the mics to nail the harmonies — it felt like everyone had their moment. And there were quite a few, to say the least…
Chucking on special guests, chewing raw meat and climbing through a TV
With fans having already seen footage of them bringing out Taylor Swift on the first night in the capital, those watching The 1975 ‘At Their Very Best’ in Manchester were understandably excited to see who might appear through the door towards the back of the stage. Oh, just Charli XCX, as you do.
Honestly, the noise that echoed around the AO Arena when she appeared was deafening and though perhaps not everyone in there would usually find themselves listening to her music, even with The 1975‘s own obvious and expertly attuned pop sensibilities, her energy was unparalleled and the crowd lapped it up.
It was a similar story when Carly Holt was brought on for ‘About You’ and they played old cult-favourite ‘Menswear’ from their self-titled debut album.
That being said, it was nothing compared to the slightly maniacal crescendo that closed out of the opening half of the show before she stepped out, as Matty punctuated the songs from Being Funny in a Foreign Language and the more easy-going tracks with a typically meta albeit bizarre interlude.
The frenetic frontman has always been self-referential but he was at self-indulgent best on Friday, as in one fell swoop he went from unbuttoning his shirt and sensually caressing his body whilst smoking on stage, to getting on his knees, eating a raw piece of steak and doing a bunch of press-ups. At one point you could literally see him mouth, “what the f*** am I doing!?”
We have absolutely no idea, Matty. We thought it was surreal enough when he started eating a sausage roll after a fan chucked it on stage, but that was nothing compared to him staring down a camera as he climbed through a TV and disappeared out the back of the set.
We assumed it had some kind of consumerist, fourth-wall-breaking message about being sucked in by media and whatnot, but who knows? It could just be the ever-artsy musician having a bit of mind-bending fun; it gave us trippy Trainspotting vibes and was unlike any other live gig we’d ever seen.
Doing what they do best: putting on a proper show
With the new album and the majority of surprises behind them, the band then kicked things into fifth gear and started playing countless bangers throughout their now more than decade-long studio discography as they steamed towards the final act of their 25-track epic.
Part of the reason this latest record has gone down so well with fans new and old is that it’s much more succinct and simpler than the previous two; back to basics sounds reductive but it was about stripping away a lot of the frills and just writing good songs — the second half of the show very much embodied that ethos.
Matty’s often unhinged, ‘dancing with abandon’ and intoxicated persona on stage is never going to go anywhere, but it didn’t look like he needed anything other than the audience to fuel the performance. They fed off him and he fed off them, as was perfectly epitomised when they dropped ‘The Sound’.
Closing the door and looking towards a new chapter
More poignantly, after the now infamous antics earlier in the show that have now become part of the narrative for this tour, there wasn’t any more self-indulgence. There were no speeches about politics or art, kissing people on stage or sucking thumbs. There was simply no need for it.
There was only pure crowd-pleasing, Matty showing his appreciation for his bandmates and celebrating everything that the band is about at this moment in time, even if that is partly playing the hits and things like doing the ‘don’t like methols’ meme.
I mean, he couldn’t not do it for us, could he?
Last but not least, the set dressing was typically creative from The 1975’s production team as a whole and played a key role throughout, but it was until the end of the show that it hit home how important it was to the whole performance.
The doors dotted all over the stage weren’t just a nice nod to the iconic box logo that the band is known for. After it was illuminated and Matty passed through it for the final time, shutting it behind him and the credits once again rolling for the band, the metaphor hit you like a train: it signified the end of an era.
By walking through it on his way off the stage, it symbolised the band closing the door on the Music For Cars era that has encapsulated their last five albums and more than 21 years of their life as a band, with the last action of Matty going to turn the stage lights as if to ram home that final moment of closure.
Who knows what the next chapter will hold for The 1975? All we know is that we have loved the journey so far and you can sign us up for as many of those gigs as they’re willing to give us.
Eurovision costumes, props and instruments are being auctioned off – and it’s a mad collection
Items from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest are being sold at auction this week, from iconic costumes to enormous props.
It means that fans of the massive event – this year held in Liverpool – will be able to snap up a permanent piece of Eurovision history.
Have you ever looked around your living room and thought ‘You know what this place really needs? Those giant purple hands that Kalush Orchestra danced on this year’?
Or ‘I hate this jumper. I wish a had a green one with a face on like those Daði Freyr Eurovision dancers’?
Or even ‘A set of fluffy pink and yellow heart-shaped cushions would really brighten the place up’?
Well now there’s an auction you might be interested in, with bids opening from just £5.
The original props, costumes, and even instruments are on sale now, until 11 June.
You could be turning the actual lectern thing that Graham Norton and Hannah Waddingham stood behind for the results show into a cool bar, or decorating your pad with the drums used in Sam Ryder’s powerful performance.
The top bids currently, just a few days after the auction started, stand at £500 – that’s for the presenter’s lectern and for the Daði Freyr jumpers.
Someone else has bid a whopping £250 for a set of fluffy cushions.
There are more than 60 items available to buy, including parts of the set, which were designed by Julio Himede and unveiled by the King and Queen.
The BBC has reported that 20% of the money raised will go to two different charities, split between ACC Liverpool Foundation and BBC Media Action, with the remaining 80% going back to BBC Studios to fund programmes and services.
Sally Mills, head of sustainability at BBC Studios said: “Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, both on and off screen.
“We have a responsibility to operate with as minimal an impact on the environment as possible, and are always looking for innovative ways in which to further engage audiences with our content, and extend the life of our sets and costumes.
“What better way to do this than to give fans the opportunity to own a piece of Eurovision history?”
Slam Dunk festival apologises after fans complain of queues so long they ‘didn’t eat’
Slam Dunk, a huge rock and punk festival, has issued a statement apologising to fans for ‘issues’ on site.
Festival organisers address a range of problems at the site – which takes place simultaneously in both Temple Newsam in Leeds and Hatfield – ranging from traffic flow, car parking, food vendors, toilets, accessibility and queues.
The lengthy statement said that the Slam Dunk team would ‘conducting a thorough investigation, whilst working extremely hard to rectify all problems for future events’.
It comes after hundreds of festival-goers complained of poor organisation and ‘overcrowding’ at both sites – though Slam Dunk has sought to assure people that it was not oversold, The Hoot Leeds reports.
A common complaint amongst fans was the huge waits for food traders, with many reporting that they gave up and didn’t eat.
This year’s festival was headlined by Enter Shikari, The Offspring, and Billy Talent, drawing in thousands of music fans from across the north.
One person said: “Had a great day today at @SlamDunkMusic but definitely lessons to be learned – queues everywhere were a joke (1hour+ minimum) and people were going hungry and without water or drinks because of it. Got to be sorted out for next year.”
Someone else posted: “Three hour wait for food so we abandoned the queue. Now queueing for ice cream as a meal substitute while only hearing Flogging Molly. Got us trapped here all day with not enough of anything: water points, food, toilets, routes in&out. F*cking sh*te.”
One festival goer commented on Slam Dunk’s Instagram page: “I’ve been going to SlamDunk for years now but this year has to have been the worst! And might have possibly put me off for ever returning. It’s amazing seeing the festival grow, but when it reaches the point where people’s safety it as risk it might be worth reconsidering everything.”
Others followed with similar comments like “Luckily we left early because we were starving, the amount of people I’ve seen that have been complaining about waiting 2-3 hours to get out of the carpark or waiting 2 hours for a taxi is shocking. This used to be my favourite festival of the year, it’s my 6th slam dunk and now I’m having serious doubts of ever coming again just due to how poorly organised it was.”
However, there have also been plenty of comments from those that attended the festival highlighting different experiences.
A comment left on Slam Dunk’s Instagram statement read: “Bloody great weekend guys. Don’t let the internet ruin it”.
Slam Dunk’s full statement about the 2023 festival
“Slam Dunk Festival would like to address issues which have been raised across the weekend.
“We recognise there were problems and that some customers did not have an experience to the standard which they expected. We would like to apologise for the issues which occurred and reassure our customers that we are committed to improving the event.
“We would like to assure all customers that neither event was oversold, and customer safety is, and always will be, paramount to the festival. Like all other major events, all our event plans were reviewed by local authorities and are in line with industry standards.
“In response to the car parking and traffic issues, as previously highlighted there was an unprecedented number of cars arriving to the festival site who hadn’t pre-booked car parking. This alongside other external factors created a traffic flow issue which inevitably caused delays into the festival site. As a measure to combat the traffic flow issue we made the conscious decision to stop checking passes for parking to increase the rate of entry to the car park and to prevent further delays. Keeping this in mind, we have made the decision to no longer provide on the day car parking, from next year only those who have pre-booked their car park tickets will be permitted to park on site, along with other measures we are looking to implement, we believe these will create smoother entry into event.
“We also recognise the issues surrounding food vendors and queues. We were assured that we had an adequate number of food vendors for the expected number of attendees, however, we recognise that this wasn’t the case, and we are committed to increasing the number of traders at future events, along with where they are located.
“Similarly, we recognise related issues surrounding toilets and water points. We would like to reassure customers that these facilities are in line with industry recommendations and have been increased from previous years, however this is something which we will increase further for future events.
“We are also aware of access issues, and we will be contacting our access customers directly for their feedback.
“We recognise there are other issues not highlighted in this statement. We will be conducting a thorough investigation, whilst working extremely hard to rectify all problems for future events. We have always been committed to increasing customer experience and we welcome feedback to do this. We encourage customers to complete our post event survey to assist us with this.
“Slam Dunk Festival 2023 would like to thank everyone who has provided their indispensable feedback so far. If you haven’t already, please raise any concerns with us directly through our post-event survey.
“We are sorry about the issues that were encountered over the weekend, we take full accountability, and we are committed to improving our service.
“It is with your feedback, as registered in this survey, that we will be able to consider all concerns when planning future events. We apologise that some of you did not have an experience that was up to the standard you expect when you attend Slam Dunk Festival
“We are listening to you. We will be updating you on our plans to improve Slam Dunk Festival 2024 later this summer once we have collected all of your feedback.
“Team Slam Dunk”.
You can leave your feedback for the Slam Dunk North Festival on this Google Form from organisers here.