Manchester most-likely lads The 1975 named their band after scribblings they spied in a Jack Kerouac poetry book. But even the most cursory contact with their feeble retro stylings would suggest that they are out of time by a good few years. There were moments during this superficially handsome but musically trying concert when it felt like the audience of trendy 21st-century teens had been unwittingly transported down a wormhole to find themselves in a live edition of the BBC4 Top of the Pops repeats where the comprehensive joys – and horrors – of the early Eighties chart scene are currently being exposed week after week.
Many other band names were tried out on the path to recognition. Compounding their identity crisis, The 1975’s music fits one of two unrelated briefs, oscillating between faux funk pop with flimsy vocals and gurning sax embellishment (let’s call this The 1983) and infinitely preferable though still curiously empty-headed ambient atmospherics (say, The 1991).
This latter dreamier strain can be traced to their pretentiously titled second album I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It which has been generally acclaimed for its soporific grace and soft synth- driven whimsy.
Neither style is the stuff that arena shows are made of but The 1975 are on a commercial high right now so every utterance was greeted with the same non-discriminating shrieks by an audience for whom this was entirely new and presumably fresh.
However, for a group enjoying their present pop success, they were puny in performance, relying on the rapture of the starry-eyed fans and an expensive production design bathed in cool neon hues of blue, peach and pink to generate any sense of occasion.
Frontman Matt Healy was the sole focal point in an otherwise charisma-free outfit. Given the number of overcome young girls in the front rows, he clearly fulfilled some kind of need with his nine-stone weakling vocals, equally diluted posey stage presence and intimations of vaguely hippyish togetherness, but he dominated only by default.
The show was studded with a couple of antiseptic attempts to rock out, including set closer Sex, which was a touch pacier and feistier than what had gone before, while the soft mid-80s R&B of encore number If I Believe You suited Healy’s limited voice, but these were scraps from a meagre musical table.