A festival in Malaysia has been cancelled after British singer Matty Healy attacked the country’s anti-LGBT laws.
During the performance by his band The 1975 at the Good Vibes Festival, Healy addressed the audience in a profanity-laden speech before kissing bass player Ross MacDonald.
The band then ended their set, claiming officials ordered them off stage.
Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia and punishable by 20 years in prison.
The band were headlining the Good Vibes Festival in the capital Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
On Saturday the festival’s organisers said the remaining schedule for the festival had been cancelled following the controversy.
A statement said the decision came after an “immediate cancellation directive” from Malaysia’s Ministry of Communications and Digital, as part of its “unwavering stance against any parties that challenge, ridicule or contravene Malaysian laws.”
In footage shared online, Healy could be seen telling the crowd that the band’s decision to appear in Malaysia had been a “mistake”.
“When we were booking shows, I wasn’t looking into it,” Healy said. “I don’t see the [expletive] point, right, I do not see the point of inviting the 1975 to a country and then telling us who we can have sex with.
“Unfortunately you don’t get a set of loads of uplifting songs because I’m [expletive] furious,” the frontman continued. “And that’s not fair on you, because you’re not representative of your government. Because you’re young people, and I’m sure a lot of you are gay and progressive and cool.”
Healy and MacDonald then kissed as the band played the song I Like America & America Likes Me.
Soon after – just 30 minutes into the set – Healy and the band walked off stage, with the singer telling the audience: “Alright, we just got banned from Kuala Lumpur, see you later.”
A source close to the 1975 confirmed the incident to the BBC.
“Matty has a long-time record of advocating for the LGBTQ+ community and the band wanted to stand up for their LGBTQ+ fans and community,” the source said on Friday night.
In an initial statement to local media on Friday, festival organisers said the band’s set was stopped due to “non-compliance with local performance guidelines”. But at that stage they said the festival would continue as scheduled for the rest of the weekend.
Wan Alman, entertainment director at Future Sound Asia which organises the Good Vibes Festival, told BBC News the band’s kiss came as “a complete surprise”.
He said: “Prior to their performance, we were reassured by management that they would adhere to all local performance guidelines as do all international artists that perform in the country, and yeah so we were completely surprised that the performance took such a turn.”
Mr Alman stressed international acts need to understand breaking rules comes at a high cost and not necessarily for the performers.
“I think it’s very easy for him [Healy] to fly in and do whatever he wants to do, and then just fly out without having to face or take accountability for any consequences for his actions, while the ones who suffered implications are his fans here because his set was cut short, the festival organisers and, you know, I think the industry as a whole.”
Malaysia’s Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil hit out at the band’s performance on Twitter, calling it a “very disrespectful act”. He added that he had contacted festival organisers and asked them to provide a full report.
Denise Welch, Healy’s mother, actress and panellist on ITV’s Loose Women, retweeted a video of the kiss saying “he’s my son” with a rainbow [colours of the pride flag] emoji.
Healy has previously used appearances on stage to highlight anti-LGBT laws.
In 2019 he invited a male fan on stage during a gig in Dubai to hug him, before sharing a quick kiss. The incident attracted criticism in the country, where homosexuality is punishable by 10 years imprisonment.
Posting on Twitter after the show, Healy said: “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.”
Other performers at the Good Vibes Festival include the Strokes, Dermot Kennedy and Ty Dollar $ign.
Source: British Broadcasting Corporation