I saw a lot of different costumes during Halloween weekend. Lots of Barbies (and Kens, too); angels and devils; a surprising amount of men saying they're “that guy from The Bear.” But if you dared to venture 30 minutes off campus on Sunday night, you would have seen something crazy — hundreds of teenage girls dressed as the sometimes controversial, always erratic frontman of the British pop-rock band The 1975: Matty Healy.
On Oct. 29, The 1975 took the stage at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their self-titled album at their “Still…At Their Very Best” North American Tour. The run is a longer extension of their 2022 tour of an only slightly shorter name (“At Their Very Best”), promoting their fifth studio album Being Funny in a Foreign Language. However, this tour focuses on reminiscing on the band’s musical evolution over the last decade, as Healy announced at a Sacramento concert in September that the band will go on an “indefinite hiatus” from touring after this cycle.
The 1975 is known by fans for their experimental approach to each album, mixing genres and using distinct artistic methods. The way I see it, this show is sort of like the Eras Tour for girls who had unrestricted access to Tumblr during their formative adolescent years. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to be there.
The crowd demographic was representative of the band’s decade-long career, equal parts Gen-Z and millennial. The most common uniform of choice, only fitting for Halloweekend, was some of the band’s classic fashion staples: Doc Martens, white oxfords, black ties and sleek sunglasses, among others.
Opening the show was bedroom pop artist Dora Jar who has previously opened for artists like The Neighbourhood and Billie Eilish. Her singular, alternative style shone through her energetic and eclectic performance, and my favorite performances were “Scab Song,” a dreamlike trance of layered harmonies and dynamic cadence, and “Puppet,” the punchy closer that had Jar and bandmates crawling over each other in ecstasy.
At promptly 8:32 p.m., the lights dimmed once again and the stage curtain rose to reveal the sitcom living room-inspired set previously introduced during the 2022 leg of the tour. The show’s structure emulates a theater production rather than a traditional concert, with three “acts” weaving together a loose narrative about the band’s reputation and commentary on the current social landscape.
The first act began with the four opening tracks from Being Funny In A Foreign Language, after the band entered in the style of a sitcom theme sequence and took their places onstage. A trademark of the album and its subsequent live performances is the self-aware wordplay overlaid on stripped back production. The band’s live performance emphasized the power of strong vocals and instrumental capability as members engaged the audience and emphasized particularly pertinent lyrics.
“I was living my best life, living with my parents/ Way before the paying penance and verbal propellants/ And my, my, my cancellations,” Healy sang, gesturing and smirking to the handheld camera broadcasting the performance onscreen.
After a rendition of the electronically modulated, Soundcloud rap-inspired “I Like America And America Likes Me,” the band segued into “About You,” a 2022 single famous for its hypnotic bridge sung by Polly Money and ambient production often credited to the touch of pop hitmaker Jack Antonoff. A feeling of intense nostalgia seemed to fall over the crowd, a unique phenomenon marked by thousands of people each visualizing a montage of a different moment, while all still united under the same roof. The 1975 truly shines in making songs that feel huge. Whether they’re expansive, building choruses or chanting calls to action, the band never fails to make hyper specific moments appear hyper relatable.
In recent years, Healy has gotten a lot of attention for his provocative performance art decisions, such as infamously eating a raw steak on stage recently at Madison Square Garden in 2022. While this tour undoubtedly subdues some of the band’s previous outlandishness, it is never without its fair share of surprises.
At one point, Healy mimed anger as a fan appeared to throw their iPhone on stage. While I initially feared this might be another Steve Lacy moment, I realized that this was a fake prop and yet another part of the performance facilitated by audience members. Healy sat dismally in front of the stage and began to eat the phone in pieces. Was this a commentary on society’s dependence on technology somehow? Probably. Putting the deeper meaning off to the side, it was simply a funny moment to watch in real time.
Soon after this incident, Healy turned his focus to a hoard of TV sets broadcasting news footage and began doing rapid pushups set to classical music, seemingly commenting on the construct of modern masculinity. He ultimately climbs inside a screen, thus transitioning the show into its second act, “Matty’s Nightmare.”
Now here’s where things get even weirder. Suddenly, the attention shifted to the B-stage, a small grass-laid platform that also happened to be right in front of our seats. The lights rose to reveal a wax replica of a naked Healy, laid in the fetal position. Human Healy prowled onto the stage, bowing to fans as if executing a Houdini-level illusion, then gazing at the replica and stroking its hair, as if to watch himself from outside his body. In my not-so-expert opinion, this bit was reflective of the band’s self-awareness regarding the nearly hyperbolic character of Healy as portrayed to the media and in performances; or, the band thought it would be hysterical to troll the audience into thinking Healy was actually lying naked onstage for all to see.
Replica Healy soon descended back into the ground, and Human Healy took to the microphone for the first and only acoustic song of the night, the guitar ballad “Be My Mistake.” For a band that so often experiments with cacophonous, stacked mixing and synth-heavy, heart-racing tracks, their erratic yet heartbreaking lyrics truly shine in a stripped-back context.
True to the band’s performance history, this subtlety was brief. As the band trekked back to the mainstage, a satirical political advertisement, starring Healy as a pseudo-political candidate for an American government office, sprawled across the screen. In a meta and self-referential tone, Healy droned about the importance of redemption and rehabilitation to the U.S. in his sardonic Manchester accent.
Act 3, defined as the self-titled “Still…At Their Very Best” segment, began with a purple hue cast over the living room and a neon sign displaying the title hung above the set. This time, as the band retook the stage, the video feed split screened to alternating sensory videos, featuring Subway Surfers and Dance Dance Revolution gameplay, slime ASMR TikToks and car demolition footage; a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the changing attention spans associated with technological advancement. One fan even played into the joke, catching the attention of Healy himself.
“Are you just watching an episode of House in the front row?” Healy asked the audience member. “That’s actually quite a good bit!”
While much of the media circus around the band centers Healy himself, the other three members are crucial to the band’s signature sound and ultimate success. With Ross MacDonald on bass, Adam Hann on guitar and George Daniel on the drums, the anthemic, atmospheric sound is what gets both die-hard fans and boyfriends dragged along for the ride jumping and swaying along without fail.
The band’s dancey melodies over Healy’s intellectual, often sad lyrics, are a staple of the band’s sound. While the show left some room for teen angst, at the end of the day, The 1975 wants you to lose yourself in the music.
“Don’t be sad babies, let's just dance,” Healy said before the band transitioned into “Somebody Else,” a certified sad-girl classic about the paradox of jealousy after a breakup despite knowing you and your partner should not be together.
The penultimate track “Give Yourself A Try” seemed to end the set on an optimistic, sage note. However, the band returned to the B-stage for the pseudo-encore performance of their oddball, metal-inspired track “People,” a clear outlier from the band’s typical pop-rock motifs. The two-hour long set ended with Healy screaming into the microphone and handheld broadcast camera, MacDonald and Hann shredding their guitars around him and the crowd turning into a mosh for exactly two minutes. Then it was all over, and the thousands of fans filed out in an eerily polite and quiet fashion to catch their Ubers home.
I left Allstate Arena in somewhat of a daze that Sunday. To see a band that I’d spent so many years listening to live and in person for the first time was almost mythic. Whether I like it or not, The 1975 always knows how to make me feel something. From the group’s beginnings as a grungy punk-rock foursome performing covers in local dive bars to its integration into the mainstream via catchy pop melodies and hyper modern lyrical musings, The 1975 has provided a soundtrack to my adolescence, wallowing lows and soaring highs alike.
So — is The 1975 really “at their very best?” It’s hard to say what the future holds for the band. But, if their sonic development continues at this rate, they will undeniably be something to talk about for years to come.