This article first appeared on The AU Review.
It had been a long time since I’d attended a show at the Hordern Pavilion, and I didn’t expect the big return to be for such an oddly mixed bill – by arena standards at least. A massive turnout at the Enmore in 2014, and one sold out show at the Hordern “forced” Manchester rockers The 1975 to extend the invitation to another Hordern-load of fans, with their friends Circa Waves tagging along for the ride.
So here I was, heading to watch two acts that were both experiencing a very rapid-fire rise to fame in the past year and were having to adapt quickly, crafting entertaining shows and touring incessantly while trying to continue the quality of songwriting for upcoming releases. The result, the sweatiest and most inspiring gig I’ve ever seen at the Hordern.
It would be appropriate to say that Circa Waves are all business. A series of short, sharp and frenzied tracks with streaks of likability set a framework to their set and they nailed it in a sinch. “Young Chasers” was the first out the gate and got the crowd warmed up, running riot from beginning to end. A sly spasm of British brilliance that paved the way for a raucous set. The last time I saw the Liverpool lads in Australia, it was the day after the 2014 Splendour in the Grass, playing to a humble crowd of loyal yet justifiably weary punters in Newtown, and the transition to an arena gig is a big step in Australian terms. There is none that could have translated better than Circa Waves brand of fast paced and dirty brit-pop.
The new single “Fossils” provided one of the more classic sounding brit-pop tracks, with hooks-a-plenty and a sort of bravado that really riled up the crowd. After that, the early stages of the night was theirs for the taking. Although most of the tracks had the same gritty stamp on it, they still managed to push through a unique set. “So Long” had crowd members turning around surprised and mouthing, “I know this song!” They then slowed things down with “Talking Out Loud” for a sweet change of pace, packed with emotion and some brilliant minor changes that built on their version of a rock ballad.
Circa Waves came in the same way they went out, honest and humble. Getting the job done with Triple J favourite “Stuck In My Teeth” and “Get Away”, giving us a quick snapshot of a band that should be on everybody’s watch list in 2015. The fans and newcomers fed off it. After all, there’s nothing better than supporting the underdog, and you’re hard stretched to find a more deserved act than this.
A crafty light show introduced the headlining band like a black and white photograph, with singer Matt Healey twirling up front and centre. The immediate impression was that the frontman has this hazy swagger about him that measures up to something like the pop version of Pete Doherty. With a slick bottle of vino in hand, The 1975 opened with “The City”, as the crowd went absolutely insane from the get go. Early on, sleeker urbanised tracks like “Milk” and “M.O.N.E.Y” extended the ethereal sounding playlist, bolstering their songwriting creds outside the list of predominantly straight-forward hits, proving to have musicianship that can’t be pegged.
“So Far It’s Alright” was the perfect pop tune, slow enough to keep a cheeky sway happening in the crowd, and catchy enough for even the security guards to pick up a few lyrics halfway through. My personal favourite, “Settle Down” held a bright spot amongst what was an almost flawless set at that point, with every song bouncing in a unique and catchy way. Older tracks like “Pressure” morphed seamlessly into the newer ones like “Heart Out”, keeping the pace and allowing the fair-weather fans to get intwined with their new favourite band.
Matt Healey played the polite host, taking care of the crowd and making sure everyone was hydrated and going well. It was a confusing fatherly visage, coming from a guy whose silhouette came paired with a bottle of wine at the beginning. Holding a ghostly veil over the arena, songs like “Me” showed real emotion, both in the song itself and the performance portrayed by the band. Moments like this provided true clarity to a bunch of guys that have earned their popularity through the closeness they felt with the music and the moments in their lives that influenced the songs. The “blood and sweat” that went into the making of The 1975, for lack of a better description.
“You” was the rock anthem of the night, bringing every hand in the arena to the sky to clap. Standing on top of the drum set, in the silhouette of the lights, the message was clear. Matt Healey is the next big rock-god. “Girls” hit a note with the crowd as they ripped the roof off the Hordern Pavilion at the mere strike of the first chord. This was where we said goodbye to the days of the mosh-pit and hello to the dance-pit as not a single body stood dormant, resembling more of a warehouse rave than an indie-rock gig. Although not much was to be said about the quality of the dancing (well, on my part at least), those sweaty bodies would not give up until the last “goodnight” was said, and to see that sort dedication towards any act is nothing short of inspiring.
The 1975 half-life was a new one for me, and even after they slinked off stage for the fake-goodnight the rest of us continued the dance party, high on the awesome they had left us with. By the time we noticed, they’re back on and kicking into some more tracks. The encore highlights involved their big hits, “Robbers”, “Chocolate” and finally, wrapping things up with “Sex”. These three together, while definitely being among the best tracks played on the night, again showed the diversity of their set hopping from emotive and heartfelt anthem, to bouncing pop tune to the rugged smash-it-out style rock that sealed a steaming close on the night and left us drenched from head to toe and fighting for the cold night air.
For the older tenants in the crowd dancing like idiots, The 1975 were rejuvenating, life-affirming and refreshing. Like being 18 again. For those under drinking age, it was inspiring and tugged a million heartstrings. I loved this band on paper, but live it was a whole other world. They were Songkick’s “Hardest Working Band” of 2014 and it shows in the quality of the performance, the tightness of the musicianship and the familiarity and appeal of the set itself. No matter what your taste, The 1975 are the type of act that makes you look up dazed halfway through the set and think, “God…I should start a band.”