The 1975 brought dark performance art & blissful pop to Madison Square Garden (setlist, video, review)

The 1975 were on the verge of embarking on a North American tour early in 2020 when the pandemic hit, and they wound up up cancelling their 2021 touring as well. They've finally returned to the stage in North America on their At Their Very Best tour, which has a lot of ground to cover, with two new albums -- 2020's Notes on a Conditional Form and this year's Being Funny in a Foreign Language -- having come out in the interim. They pulled it off with aplomb, delivering a two part, nearly two-hour set that was both high-concept and entertaining, with a setlist that hit on lots of fan favorites. The stage was an elaborate multi-floor house, with everything from doors, windows, lights that turned on and off, spiral stairs, and TVs, right down to bookshelves with books in them. It gave the arena a cozy, intimate feeling, especially as Matty Healy opened the show smoking at a piano on the ground floor, looking for all the world like a stereotypical writer at a typewriter. It also felt a little like a '70s sitcom, with band members moving from room to room and Matty flopping in chairs and on the sofa.

The first part of the show was made of largely of the Being Funny in a Foreign Language material, with "Oh Caroline" and "I'm in Love With You" really getting the crowd dancing all the way to the back. Towards the end, darkness fell on the house, finding Matty up on the roof for "I Like America & America Likes Me." That was followed by the tender "About You" and "When We Are Together" -- and then the performance art aspect of the show really kicked up a notch. Stagehands in white coats came out to move the TVs, leaving them clustered in a menacing hive on the ground floor, emitting static and sinister noises. Matty later told the crowd, "I'm sorry if you came with your dad and I was touching my dick," but his next actions -- chowing down on some raw meat on a stick, shirtless -- were really what got people talking. After that, he did some push-ups, and crawled into the TV, which then fizzled off.

When he and the band came back out for the show's second part after a saxophone interlude, staged through one of the windows, they launched into a crowd-pleasing, full-throttle rendition of "If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)" which had the crowd jumping. "Enough of the black pill performance art," Matty said, continuing, "gotta get it out of my system." Part of the genius of The 1975 is their juxtaposition of bright, exuberant pop music with often dark lyrics, and the second set, "At Their Very Best," worked similarly as a foil to the mind-bending stage play that proceeded it, with a string of their most blissfully upbeat songs, including "TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME," "The Sound," and "Love It If We Made It," which, despite Matty saying "I didn't still want to be playing this song in 2022," was a major highlight in a night filled with them.

There was no encore after a singalong version of the set's final song, "Give Yourself a Try," but there was really no need for one, either. A fantastic show all around.

If you didn't make it to MSG on Tuesday night (11/7), the show also streamed live on Amazon Music UK's Twitch, and will do so again today (11/8) at 1 PM ET.

See a few pictures from Tuesday by Jordan Curtis Hughes, along with the setlist and full-set video, below.

SET 1:
The 1975 (Being Funny in a Foreign Language)
Looking for Somebody (to Love)
Part of the Band
Oh Caroline
I'm in Love With You
All I Need to Hear
I Like America & America Likes Me
About You
When We Are Together

SET 2:
If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)
Me & You Together Song
It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)
Somebody Else
I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)
Love It If We Made It
The Sound
Give Yourself a Try