On the day that they knocked Adele off the top of the albums chart, The 1975 had Brixton Academy block-booked like an oligarch marking a big birthday. Five nights here is unusual, an indication that the Macclesfield band are already popular enough for arenas but are shying away, presumably saving an inevitable O2 announcement for later this year.
Or perhaps something in frontman Matt Healy still identifies as a rocker who commands scuzzier venues, not a shiny pop star. In his leather trousers and patterned shirt, dragging a microphone cable around behind him when he could have used something more modern and wireless, he was a mini Michael Hutchence, but his high voice was pure boy band and songs such as Chocolate and She’s American were light funk froth.
The band’s new album, their second, is big on pop tunes but also wants to be thought important, with too many songs and a title that would use up the rest of this review. In concert, they backed up that bluster with a bold stage setup, unafraid of sax solos and neon pink. The aesthetic, rectangular blocks that showed shimmering pixels and cityscapes, plus jerky guitar licks and Eighties sheen, felt unique in the current landscape.
Every moment seemed meticulously planned. On If I Believe You, blasts of gospel from six backing singers matched with stabs of flashing light to powerful effect. Drummer George Daniel’s kit flashed whenever he struck a beat during Me. Healy’s electronically treated vocals and self-doubting lyrics on Loving Someone showed a man gunning for superstardom and thinking hard about what it means. His band may be a pop act, but they’re the most interesting one around right now.
Until March 9, O2 Academy Brixton, SW9 (0844 477 2000, o2academybrixton.co.uk)