Gig review: The 1975 at FlyDSA Arena, Sheffield

The 1975
The 1975
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“I’m not going to revert to just talking again,” quips The 1975 frontman Matt Healy, clad in an apparent blue boilersuit and waltzing across a travellator strung across the front of the stage at Sheffield’s FlyDSA Arena.

“But Brexit, eh- I’m not even going to go there,” he cuts himself off to chuckles. But go there he does. The Mancunian four-piece, elevated to cavernous capacity venues as a headliner for the first time in their career, have offered too much of both a commentary on and a prism into millennial matters to stay silent. “We’re all here for the same reason and that’s a weird thing to do,” the singer adds to shrieking acclamation.

Initially dismissed at the time of their first album as something of a passing fad for teenage girls, it’s quite wonderful how The 1975 have since confounded expectations. Critic hailed their third album last year as a 21st century answer to Radiohead’s OK Computer. Yet at this last night of a blockbuster UK tour, it’s the more expressionist experimentalism and pure pop rock nous of David Byrne and Peter Gabriel that they recall, in songcraft and staging.

Their other influences are widely felt – opener Give Yourself a Try’s keening, siren-esque post-punk intentionally homages Joy Division, She’s American’s white funk channels Duran Duran’s heartthrob DNA and Thom Yorke does get a nod through main set closer I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes), which lovingly retools his Fake Plastic Trees.

Yet, there’s an unequivocal genre-pushing weirdness at their core. Sincerity is Scary manages the trick of making soul-jazz appealable as bedroom music while How to Draw/Petrichor’s sinewy post-rock twinkles with nocturnal beauty. Healy remains a magnetic presence; when he stumbles through the rear backing screens into a hidden pocket for The Ballad of Me and My Brain, it feels genuinely audacious.

It ends on a barnstorming high, with Love It If We Made It, the band’s own visceral state-of-the-union address, taking full aim at popular and political modernity over an insistently brilliant stadium-sized dance-jam that has ten thousand people grooving in the aisles. As the backing visuals for The Sound mimics its music video, flashing up real-life critic comments, the phrase Genuinely laughable flickers into view as its juddering house chorus erupts once more.

On this basis, with a Reading and Leeds headline slot in August to come, it’s clear there’s only four blokes having the last laugh here.