Frontmen should be fun. Obnoxious, pretentious, eccentric… yes, all good words when it comes to the face of your favorite rock band. So when singer Matty Healy bills 1975 as “the greatest band in the world,” or gnaws a piece of raw meat or mimics masturbation more than once in a concert, he at least gives you something to talk about.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that The 1975 have been one of rock’s most enduring acts over the past decade, and their live show has blossomed into an impressive culmination of five strong records and a string of hits. Monday’s sold-out 1975 show at Madison Square Garden, which played through two dozen of their biggest songs and new albums, was an engrossing display from a band that embraces almost every pop trope, yet wants to be taken seriously.
In the first of two distinct acts, the group opened with seven consecutive tracks from their new album, Being Funny in a Foreign Language, played in almost exact order on the record. Devoting the first 30 minutes of the show to music that was released less than a month ago is a decidedly bold decision, but most of the arena faithfully sang to songs like “Oh Caroline” and “I’m in Love With You.” as if they were they were established favourites.
The retro flair of “Looking for Somebody (To Love)” and the disco bliss of “Happiness” opened the concert with a bang, but it’s the new album’s slower moments that work best live. “When We Are Together,” an acoustic ballad that Central Park calls “SeaWorld for Trees,” was perfectly loose, and the shoegazy slow-mover “About You” sounded monumental, introducing backup vocalist Polly Money and saxophonist John Waugh in the center.
It’s worth noting that Healy’s voice sounds stronger than ever on this tour. Meanwhile, bassist Ross MacDonald, drummer George Daniel and guitarist Adam Hann are consistently and often stoic, serving as necessary foils for the unpredictable frontman, who prowls about the stage puffing cigarettes and sipping from a bottle.
Speaking of the stage, 1975 transformed the garden stage into a giant deconstructed house, complete with sofas, lamps, bookshelves and vintage televisions – lots of them. Healy provided a song from the top of a spiral staircase and another on the roof. The singer’s wandering around on set, lounging on the couch and sticking his head out of the wrong windows, not only gave the show a vague narrative but also a more intimate, literally homey feel. However, the problem with blocking the sides of the stage with walls and closed windows is that for a large portion of the audience, the show was far better viewed on the MSG jumbotrons than on stage.
Midway through the show, the band left the stage as Healy sat down on the couch, donned an oxygen mask and rubbed his crotch. The singer then fell to his knees in front of one of the TVs showing footage of Ben Shapiro, Mark Zuckerberg, Kamala Harris, Bored Ape NFTs, Liz Truss, Vladimir Putin and Logan Paul. Things got even weirder when Healy started munching on a raw knuckle of meat and doing push-ups until he finally climbed into the TV and disappeared.
Whether the interlude was sheer nonsense or an avant-garde display of toxic masculinity seems irrelevant even to Healy himself, who went on to apologize for the “black pill performance art” and concede that for those who do, the show “hard to sell” aren’t already big fans of the 1975.
Nonetheless, moments later, the band returned to the stage in black suits and kicked off with an explosive “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)”, kicking off an act two of 1975’s greatest hits. There was “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)”, “Sex” and “Give Yourself a Try”, but most importantly no “Chocolate”. During “The Sound,” Healy enthusiastically ordered the Garden to do “fucking jump,” and a huge percentage of the arena’s 20,000 spectators happily did so.
The show was so tightly choreographed that even Healy’s usual banter between songs was limited, Bar apologized to fans who came with their parents for “touching my cock” and proclaimed, “If I were Kanye I would have.” Said none of that stuff.”
The disgraced rapper was also referenced elsewhere on the show. His name was mentioned in a “Love It If We Made It” text referencing a Donald Trump tweet. His signature auto-tuned ranting style was emulated in a particularly charged version of “I Like America & America Likes Me,” which Healy delivered like a sermon, at least 30 feet above the crowd. And the dangerous effect of the rapper’s recent comments was shown on TVs, which showed footage of neo-Nazis hanging anti-Semitic banners over LA’s 405 freeway last month.
But despite the vague political messages and elaborate staging, the songs were the most exciting part of the show. Healy and company are no strangers to stunts, theatrics and moments designed for Twitter virality, but if there’s one thing the 1975 won’t let you forget, it’s that they’re one hell of a live band .
https://variety.com/2022/music/concert-reviews/the-1975-madison-square-garden-concert-review-1235427075/ The Year 1975 in Madison Square Garden – Raw Meat, Self-Pleasure and Ben Shapiro: Concert Review