The 1975 review – a tale of two halves packed with raw meat and talent | The 1975

Matty Healy is chewing on slab of raw steak. Minutes later, after doing push-ups while images of Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak and Margaret Thatcher flash on screens, he crawls into an old rear-projection television and the stage goes black, thus concluding act one of the first UK date of a tour they’ve titled The 1975: At Their Very Best.

Fans with Twitter or TikTok will already be aware of Healy’s recent on-stage antics. Since the band’s tour began in the US last year, clips of the 33-year-old have gone viral: showing him berating security via Auto-Tune, snogging various fans and complaining about menthol cigarettes being thrown on stage. It’s the sort of memeable behaviour one has come to expect from the always-online Healy who, over the last decade, has become one of music’s most compulsively watchable provocateurs thanks to his inescapable charisma, open-mouthed honesty and his band’s self-aware and sparkling 80s pop-rock.

Still, while such virality is surely great for engagement – probably pleasing to the band’s label – it has perhaps overshadowed what might be one of the most inventive, bizarre and entertaining arena shows in recent memory. Split into two distinct acts, the band has done away with the often awkward and well-rehearsed dance between artist and fans where new material is slotted somewhere between the hits. Instead, the first 75 minutes of the show is material almost entirely from the band’s latest album, Being Funny in a Foreign Language, delivered as a conceptual show-within-a-show that feels constructed to test the audience’s patience and their expectations about the nature of pop shows.

Bizarre exercise … Matty Healy does push-ups while watching Rishi Sunak on TV. Photograph: Jordan Curtis Hughes

Set against a meticulously crafted set designed to look like the inside of a house, it’s presented as if Healy and his band are recording a TV special: there is even an interlude where they halt the show in order to re-do a take of a song, movie clapper and all. Staggering around the stage, Healy is loose-hipped and bendy, a bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other as he mumbles to the audience between songs. The role being played here – drunk and arrogant rockstar – clearly aligns with the thematic concerns of Being Funny in a Foreign Language, which explores the dichotomies of modern masculinity with all its fragility and toxicity: “Men are confused,” Healy says at one point, images of Andrew Tate and Prince Andrew flashing on the screens, before proceeding to grope at himself.

It would be annoying if songs weren’t so kinetic and expansive: Oh Caroline is a swirl of contradictions, a piano glissando clashing with Healy’s gravelly and emotionally wrought vocals. The open Laurel Canyon strum of I’m in Love With You becomes hunched and introverted as whirring synths go off like an alarm. The smoky end-of-the-night smoothness of All I Need to Hear, which Healy performs with his back to the crowd, is distorted by guitars. And the harmonies of When We Are Together feel like they’re enveloping you in their spine-tingling beauty.

Then, following the meat-eating and television exit, the band return to the stage for the show’s second act. “We just played about an hour of music that came out about eight weeks ago and none of you left,” Healy says. “Now let’s get into business.”

What follows is a tsunami of hits. The shimmying If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) feels like a refreshing glass of water after the previous hour, the crowd jumping like they’re at a trampoline park as Healy morphs from awkward incel into competent pop heartthrob. Somebody Else, with its glassy synths and chugging beats, becomes the singalong of the night. There’s a tiny detour as Healy throws his support behind striking workers (“Being anti-Tory is not a hot take,” he says when the crowd cheers), before an energetic performance of The Sound.

Of course, at just over two hours long, and given its perhaps alienating first half, this show may prove divisive for some. But whether you see the bewildering two-act structure as innovative, or simply an exercise in trolling, may supply the truth behind the tour’s name: you certainly wouldn’t get this from anyone else.

At Bournemouth International Centre, 9 January; then touring the UK until 30 January.