The 1975 cancel shows after Matty Healy’s Malaysia antics: ‘Giving white saviour complex’

The 1975 Matty Healy

The 1975 have cancelled their upcoming shows in Indonesia and Taiwan after a headline gig in Malaysia saw frontman Matty Healy attack the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ stance and kiss the band’s bassist onstage.

Healy’s actions have been criticised by local LGBTQ+ activists, who described his onstage antics as “giving white saviour complex” and said the incident could put the country’s queer community in even greater danger in the run-up to Malaysia’s state elections.

After Healy’s behaviour swiftly led to the band being banned from playing in Malaysia and the next two days of the Good Vibes Festival shut down, The 1975 have confirmed that they will no longer be appearing at We The Fest in Jakarta, Indonesia, or at Taipei Music Centre in the Taiwanese capital.

On Friday (21 July), the band were headlining the first day of Good Vibes Festival when Healy embarked on a rant against the southeast Asian nation’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws, telling the crowd that it was a “mistake” to appear in Malaysia.

“I don’t see the f**king point, right,” he said. “I do not see the point of inviting The 1975 to a country and then telling us who we can have sex with.” The 34-year-old singer-songwriter then shared a kiss with bandmate Ross MacDonald and played “I Like America & America Likes Me”, before their set was cut short just 30 minutes in.

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, where same-sex intimacy can be punished with fines, caning and up to 20 years in prison. There are no rights or protections for the LGBTQ+ community and the gender expression of trans people is explicitly criminalised.

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Matty Healy of The 1975 headlines the TRNSMT Festival at Glasgow Green on 9 July 2023 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns)

On Saturday (22 July), the festival announced in a statement shared on social media that the next two days of the event would not go ahead. Good Vibes Festival confirmed that they had been ordered to cancel by the Malaysian Ministry of Communications and Digital, due to Healy’s “conduct and remarks”.

LGBTQ+ Malaysians call out Matty Healy’s actions

Local LGBTQ+ people have expressed concerns that Healy’s behaviour at the festival could lead to more discrimination and political attacks on the queer community in Malaysia.

Thilaga Sulathireh, a founder of the LGBTQ+ group Justice for Sisters, said Healy’s actions were particularly worrying in the lead up to the country’s state elections.

“One can appreciate the meaning of Healy’s protest, but I think the timing of it may not necessarily benefit folks,” Sulathireh told the Washington Post. “Political parties are currently campaigning, and we know LGBT issues are often scapegoated.”

Malaysian drag queen Carmen Rose agreed, telling the BBC World Service’s Newshour that Healy’s actions would give conservative politicians “more ammo to further their homophobic agenda to gain votes”.

Rose called the onstage antics “performative” and “giving white saviour complex”, and went on to say that Healy “wasn’t doing it for our community”.

“If he was doing it for our community,” she continued, “he would know what consequences we would have to go through.”

The 1975 cancels Indonesia and Taiwan tour dates

The British indie band were scheduled to play in Indonesia and Taiwan as part of their ongoing ‘Still … At Their Very Best’ tour.

Indonesia is the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, and while most parts do not criminalise homosexuality – the Aceh province is an exception – there are no specific laws protecting the LGBTQ+ community against hate crimes or discrimination.

In 2019, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage, and this year passed ground-breaking legislation to grant same-sex couples full adoption rights.

In a statement shared on the We The Fest Instagram page, The 1975 said: “The band never take the decision to cancel a show lightly and had been eagerly looking forward to playing for fans in Jakarta and Taipei but unfortunately, due to current circumstances, it is impossible to proceed with the scheduled shows.”

Healy has previously faced criticism for kissing a male fan at a show in Dubai in 2019, as sexual activity between men is illegal in the United Arab Emirates.

Local LGBTQ+ activists warned that Healy may have put the fan at risk with his actions. After the gig, Healy tweeted: “Thank you Dubai, you were so amazing. I don’t think we’ll be allowed back due to my ‘behaviour’ but know that I love you and I wouldn’t have done anything differently given the chance again.”

Later, Healy said he regretted the decision and that he “felt pretty irresponsible”.