“I had a choice: Where would I want to spend my 30th birthday?” Swift said after performing “Blank Space” and “Me!” “The answer is, you’re looking at it! This is my first show of my 30th year of life.” The “Lover” singer’s “It’s my birthday!” energy was infectious as she kicked off the show with a seven-song set, but perhaps the tune she loved most was one she didn’t even sing.
After finishing “Shake It Off,” Z100’s Elvis Duran wheeled out a giant cake -- covered in images of each of Swift’s cats, naturally — and led a 20,000-person rendition of “Happy Birthday.” "That was the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard,” she said, grinning ear to ear. And the birthday wishes didn’t stop there: Once Swift left the stage, a 90-second video with shout-outs from Katy Perry, BTS and several more stars played.
Jonas Brothers’ Christmas cheer
In their third return to Madison Square Garden this year (their Happiness Begins Tour stopped by for two nights in August), the Jonas Brothers had something new to play this time around: Their cheerful new holiday tune, “Like It’s Christmas.” Though it wasn’t the trio’s first performance of the track since they released it in November, the sold-out crowd was pumped to sing along as the guys (and their band) sported Santa hats and danced around the stage.
Shay Mooney’s unreal final note
If you’ve seen Dan + Shay live (or on one of the many awards shows on which they’ve performed), you know very well that singer Shay Mooney gives each note his all. That was certainly the case when they took the stage Friday night, and his swoon-worthy powerhouse vocals clearly made an impact. “I want to marry you!” yelled one girl in the crowd. But it was the finale of their crossover hit “Tequila” that blew everyone’s minds, as Mooney held his last note for nearly an entire minute. Even more impressive? He hardly seemed fazed.
Monsta X’s flawless choreography
Intense dance routines are nothing new for K-pop groups, but that didn’t take away from Monsta X’s spot-on choreography. The group sang four songs including their French Montana collaboration “Who Do You Love?,” bringing the most harmony with their synced moves, which were especially mesmerizing because they were all sporting all-black ensembles. Boy band lovers especially appreciated their final performance, as the sextet incorporated mic stands for their newest single “Middle of the Night” -- seemingly an homage to their boy band predecessors, Backstreet Boys.
Lewis Capaldi’s and Niall Horan’s accent-laced humor
The Scotland-born Capaldi and Mullingar, Ireland native Horan have become the best of friends, and their respective sets showed exactly why they get along so well: They’re both hilarious. Capaldi performed first, recognizing that people may not know who he is (though the rabid screams for “Someone You Loved” proved opposite) by introducing himself as a “chubby young boy” who enjoys “putting food into my fat face.”
Horan matched Capaldi’s self-deprecating humor with his own funny comments, pointing out that he noticed several people coming back to their seats at the end of his set. “I didn’t think I’d ever be that artist that people went to the toilet for,” he said with a smile, “but it’s okay, there’s enough of you here.” It was a teaser of the hilarity that’s likely to come when they tour together next year -- and we can’t wait.
Camila Cabello’s stripped-down solo “Señorita”
After starting her rendition of “Senorita” with her quartet of female dancers and some sultry moves, Cabello grabbed a stool and sat at the center of the stage with her guitarist to put her voice in the spotlight. She filled the entire song with ad-libbed runs that played up its flamenco influence -- and almost made you forget “Señorita” is a duet. How could you forget Shawn Mendes, you ask? Watch and see for yourself below (beginning at 13:28).
Lizzo’s headliner-worthy set
There’s no denying that Lizzo has had one of the biggest years of any artist, and her Jingle Ball performance was fully indicative of that: Even with Swift on the same lineup, Lizzo arguably had the loudest crowd response of them all. As she strut around the stage in a sexified Santa suit, her prowess made the energy in the room almost tangible, especially when she delivered empowering messages in her self-proclaimed “shame-free zone.“ “We’re all about honoring ourselves from 2020 on, baby!” she declared.
While most of her set was filled with sass and confidence, Lizzo also took time to soak in her first time performing at Madison Square Garden, which fulfilled a longtime dream for the star. Yet, she even turned her own special moment into an uplifting message for fans: “If 20,000 people can accept me for who I am, the whole world is waiting to fall in love with you for who you are.” It was more than clear that 20,000 people loved her, and as confetti sprinkled down after an explosive rendition of “Truth Hurts,” it was also clear that this wouldn’t be her last time at MSG.
5SOS’ full-on rock show
It’s not easy to follow Lizzo, but 5 Seconds of Summer had no problem keeping the energy high. Starting with their breakout rocker “She Looks So Perfect,” the guys had the whole crowd back on their feet and made sure everyone stayed up. They managed to incorporate shredding guitar to even their slower hits “Easier” and “Want You Back,” so you can bet that their more intense tunes “Teeth” and the set-closing “Youngblood” were face-melting.
Halsey’s and Fletcher’s full-circle moments
Both Jersey natives, Halsey and Fletcher each shared stories about growing up listening to Z100 during their respective sets. Fletcher was extra stoked because it was her first time performing at Madison Square Garden after years of attending shows as a fan, particularly recalling sitting in section 225 for the Jonas Brothers “a bazillion years ago” and trying to sneak backstage to meet them after. (“Now I’m still backstage like, ‘Where’s the Jonas Brothers at?’” she quipped.)
While it wasn’t Halsey’s first MSG rodeo, she also had a very full-circle moment while closing out the night. “When I was a little kid, I used to stay home from school and pretend to be sick every year so I could call Z100 and try to win Jingle Ball tickets,” she said. “It’s pretty unbelievable to me that I get to come here and close out Jingle Ball.”