By Paul Glynn
Entertainment reporter at Leeds Festival
The 1975 topped the bill at Leeds Festival, replacing Rage Against the Machine, after second headliner Halsey soldiered on through sickness.
Matty Healy’s group stepped in at two weeks’ notice, sparking much debate, due to Zack De La Rocha’s leg injury.
“We weren’t even meant to be here,” the frontman declared. “Let’s have a good time.”
Earlier, Halsey took a break mid-song, revealing she had been suffering all day with a bout of food poisoning,
She powered through her set and covered Kate Bush’s resurgent Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God).
The 1975’s booking had upset some fans, who protested they weren’t a suitable replacement for Rage Against The Machine’s firebrand rock.
Suited and cigarette in hand, Healy did not seem fazed by the criticism – and his band were greeted by high-pitched screams as they swaggered their way through a set of confident and slick “bangers”, as Healy put it, from their four UK number one albums.
Their set included several songs from their Brit Award-winning 2018 LP, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, such as set closer Give Yourself a Try. And they also gave a first glimpse of material from their upcoming follow-up, Being Funny in a Foreign Language, performing new single Happiness.
‘We’re just gonna be The 1975’
“I’m sorry we’re not Rage Against the Machine,” Healy told the crowd. “But who’s Rage Against the Machine? Give it up for the best rock band of the previous generation.”
Jokingly adding: “But being in Rage Against the Machine and having a gammy leg is quite funny.”
“We’re The 1975 and we’re just gonna be The 1975 as much as we can,” he continued.
The band previously headlined the 2019 edition of the August Bank Holiday festival, which ties in with its sister event in Reading.
Earlier this month ticket-holders were rocked by the news that Rage Against the Machine and two further acts, Eurovision winners Måneskin and US rapper Jack Harlow, had pulled out of this year’s event.
While the LA rockers had a doctor’s note, the latter two acts made the late decision to perform at the MTV VMAs instead – with some fans demanding (and eventually getting) refunds, and the festival’s talent bookers with a headache.
In their place came The 1975, London rapper AJ Tracey – who will perform here on Sunday – and left-field pop star Charli XCX.
Ahead of the event journalist and podcaster Jamie East described The 1975 as one of the best bands the UK has produced in recent years, but questioned the logic behind the last minute substitution.
“The Venn diagram of Rage Against the Machine fans and The 1975 fans, I would imagine, is pretty slim,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Nihal Arthanayake.
Slim but not non-existent, it turned out, as the goings-on sent 19-year-old festival-goer Molly on an emotional rollercoaster.
“I originally bought the ticket for Rage Against the Machine so when they cancelled I was a bit annoyed,” she told BBC News. “But then they were replaced by my favourite band – lucky me!
“I was hoping for a good replacement and they lived up to my expectations.”
But there was a mixture of cheers and boos when Charli XCX asked the crowd if they were looking forward to seeing the Cheshire band, who were fresh back from festival appearances in Japan.
Another attendee, Tom, told the BBC he was planning on heading back to his tent to get some beers and find a party elsewhere instead.
Speaking to Music Week, Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn, who oversees the event, said he was pleasantly shocked to get a quality replacement headliner, who “had a show ready to go”, booked so quickly.
“We know The 1975 are a very different band to Rage, but you don’t really get much of a level of choice when a band cancels 10 days before a gig,” he said.
“Of course we will miss Rage, but I think having The 1975 is one of the most extraordinary things to happen to the festival.”
In recent years, the festival has added a second main stage headliner each night, to allow for a rapid turnaround of major productions.
The move has also given more female headliners, like Halsey, the chance to perform – something the event was previously criticised for not doing.
Charli XCX admitted she was “a little bit nervous” about her show beforehand. “I kind of got brought in at the last minute,” she said.
“Thanks for giving me your kindness and energy.”
She needn’t have worried, strutting out on to a stage adorned with grand-looking steps and flanked by elegant dancers, the show looked like it had been two months in the making, not two weeks.
Her powerful performance of her ode to a car crash romance, I Love It, was arguably the best of the day, and she dedicated another song, Boys, “to all the gay boys” in the crowd. “I know you’re out there.”
Second headliner Halsey followed with an intense display, partly on a flame-filled stage, of material from her hard-rocking Tren Reznor-produced latest record, If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power.
After questioning the mettle of the crowd “up north”, the star – who used to date Doncaster singer Yungblud – dropped the tough woman act and revealed she had been “puking my brains out” all day and at one-stage thought the show could not go on.
On leaving the stage mid-song towards the end, she returned and said: “I usually don’t ever complain but I thought I was gonna go then,” adding: “Don’t laugh at me, that will be [some of] you tomorrow!
“This is not how I pictured this set going but I’m pretty grateful for it.”
She finished strongly with hits Live Without Me and, perhaps fittingly under the difficult circumstances, I Am Not a Woman, I’m A God.