Live Review: The 1975 are about the music in the end – Aware Super Theatre, Sydney (14.04.23)

The 1975 have not graced Australia’s shores since the illness and rain affected Laneway tour of 2020 and, in that time, two full albums (their fourth and fifth) have been released as well as an explosion on a little app called Tik Tok. Therefore, it was not surprising that their first Sydney show at the Aware Super Theatre easily sold out before adding another show a couple of nights later. The performance would be a celebratory but, at times, off-beat return for the UK pop group.

Before the fans could really let loose, we were treated to up-and-coming LA artist, Wallice. The disappointment of not having a local support act (when will the government act?) was replaced by a fun and light set from the artist, who has recently signed to the main act’s ‘Dirty Hit’ label.

Playing songs from her two released EPs as well as future material, it was a hopeful set. “Maybe I’ll win you over tonight. I’ll be back later this year!” declared the 25-year-old pop artist. “Hey Michael” and “Funeral” were a couple of highlights from a short, but decidedly sweet set.

The crowd built in anticipation and filled quickly for the main act. A makeshift lounge adorned the stage, complete with a rug, suitcase record player, a bottle of wine, a hipflask and an ashtray. The scene was set and so were the fans.

Matty Healy, the complicated, oft-quoted (often out of context), creative driver behind the band appeared on screen (backstage) and the crowd went off. He made his way to the stage, seemingly indicating his “messy” state.

“I just want to make music and be a nice guy.” The comment, announced as Healy walked to the stage following a tape of Elvis’ “Love Me Tender”, seemed to be said as an apology, but also with a tinge of sadness from an artist that has a habit of putting his foot in his mouth on social media (of which he has very recently withdrawn from).

Healy, solo with an acoustic guitar, the first of multiple cigarettes on his lips and a swig of the wine bottle (which may or may not have had wine in it), started the show with “Be My Mistake” and it felt like a calming, almost deep breath, before the show started proper. It also proved a chance for the singer to relax and laugh noting the ‘alternate’ set-list that had been provided to him. He later announced that all the nouns had cheekily been changed to the word “cum”, making single word songs quite tricky to interpret!

It wasn’t long before the band kicked in and “Looking for Somebody (to Love)” demonstrated the pop prowess of the group. Throughout the night, the quality of the band would be well demonstrated, but they were also seemingly relegated to a supporting role as the charismatic Healy inevitably stole the stage and the show.

Matty Healy of The 1975 live on stage at Aware Super Arena on the 14th of April 2023. Photo by Jordan Curtis HughesWith the majority of focus on the lead singer, it did appear that he was not quite himself. Banter was irregular and short between tracks and despite eliciting laughs at one point when saying, “Learn the pentatonic scale and you’ll have infinite bitches”, there was an air of sadness about his performance. That’s not to say he was lacking energy as he passionately belted out songs like “UGH!” and “Oh Caroline” to an adoring and vocal crowd.

The setlist itself had a fair rotation of old and new, but also a mix of styles. Some songs are reminiscent of Coldplay, some of mid-‘80s ‘mum and dad’ rock and then songs like “fallingforyou” and “Robbers” remind us of how good their songwriting can be. “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” and “She’s American” were just pure pop bangers that sparked effervescent dancing around the arena. Through it all though, the saxophone of John Waugh was truly impressive.

“Love It When We Make It” was another highlight of the set, and with all the pointed lyrics from the track, (think Kanye, Trump and fossil fuels), it was a moment for Healy to really cut loose (along with the strobe lights!). There is a lot going on with the band, including the music and the art surrounding it. At one point, the whole audience were asked to turn their back to the stage for a piece of conceptual art. The acronym, ‘ATPOAIM’ (or A Theatrical Performance Of An Intimate Moment) was projected onto the screens at the end of the show, which may or may not be related!

Matty Healy really does seem like a tortured soul. People may doubt the authenticity of his image, but there is clearly a lot going on there as is proved by the sheer emotion he conveys during the ballads, often appearing in his own world. At one point, he grabbed a camera and entertained himself (and us) with shots of the band along with a twisted kaleidoscope of the rear projection. This playfulness felt like we were looking inside the mind of the singer, who at times felt disconnected to the audience and others completely immersed.

Through it all, the band were tight, the singing and performance were top-notch and the eclectic crowd lapped it up. Was it a controversial or over-the-top show? No, but it didn’t need to be. The band let their music do the talking and that’s enough. There was no encore, as they never do, so they finished with “Give Yourself A Try”, the crowd baying for more, but knowing that was it. Healy can never be accused of not giving his all, even if he was feeling a bit down. It was a stadium-sized performance from a band that are at the top of their game.


Photo Credit: Jordan Curtis Hughes

Mick Radojkovic

I like to consume stuff. Music, comedy, TV, films. Also, nachos and doughnuts. Thank you for your time.