“The older I get, the less intimacy I want with strangers.”
Towards the end of his solo acoustic set at Sydney’s Metro Theatre, Matty Healy is taking a moment to reflect on his experience of going it alone. “You’d think the whole [big show] would be way scarier than this,” he tells the 2000-strong crowd. “Not that you even care, I’ve got an amazing life…”
Having never performed in this set up “on purpose” before – save for the odd radio session – the singer put together tonight’s special gig in aid of the Australian bushfire relief, shedding his cartoonish rock ‘n’ roll bravado for the cause and treating lucky fans to a run of The 1975‘s more delicate cuts.
We’re offered just eight of those this evening. “I only have a small collection of songs I can do like this,” Healy reasons. Despite the short set, the frontman draws from the past, present and future of his band – ranging from 2012’s ‘Woman’ to upcoming ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’ track, ‘Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America’. An outing for non-album rarity ‘102’ also provides tonight’s most tender moment, ringing out to near pin-drop silence.
Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America pic.twitter.com/AeSPDWsS6o
— SARAH | Ugh! (@andthe1975) February 4, 2020
Sitting on a sofa beside a vintage lamp and coffee table, a suited-up Healy smokes cigarettes and sips on a glass of red wine throughout the 30 minutes. It’s as if we’re peering into a late-night session held in his own living room. For ‘Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You’, Healy ditches his acoustic and makes his way over to the keyboard. “That’s broken!” he quips, gesturing towards his instrument as he finishes the song.
Later, the event’s intense intimacy weighs heavily once again. “The idea of the individual is so apparent in these rooms,” Healy says. “It’s loads of eyes, loads of opinions, and loads of people. Whereas when you’re out there [in front of thousands], it’s more manageable. I dunno, it feels like the tables have turned or some shit.”
Some respite is provided to Healy’s anxiety, however, with a stripped-back rendition of jangly new single ‘Me & You Together Song’ – which somehow becomes even more wholesome in this form. Singing along at full force, the crowd also grant the frontman’s wish for its “nappies” backing vocal to become the new “selling petrol” moment.
After penultimate track ‘Nana’ – a tribute to Healy’s late Grandmother – the evening comes to a close with ‘Sex’, which sees a reaction equal to that at The 1975’s festival headline appearances.
As the crowd scream the “we might as well just fuck” line towards him at an ear-piercing volume, the beam across Healy’s face suggests he may have just gotten over his intimacy issues after all. Our guess? He enjoyed tonight just as much as we did.
Matty Healy played:
‘Be My Mistake’
‘Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America’
‘Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You’
‘Me and You Together Song’