“You can keep the shirt, but not my wedding ring. I’ll get in trouble if I go home without that,” Brett Anderson told the rabid AsiaWorld-Expo crowd after they tore the white dress shirt from his back. The Suede frontman leaped off the stage to get up close and personal with his fans, who clearly wanted to take the adoration up a notch.
The Britpop kings received the city’s warmest welcome, despite the echoey arena’s awful sound, which rendered the guitars and rhythm dull and muddy. Anderson’s voice, warbling and wailing as theatrically as ever, managed to survive the murky mix, but it was hard to pick out his bandmates’ individual sections.
The set kicked off with the opening tracks from new album Night Thoughts, a concept record written to be listened to from start to finish. A peaceful lull of cello strings and children singing was broken through by the spine-chilling guitar and the great, thudding tom beat of When You Are Young. Richard Oakes’ guitar took on a jagged edge for the darkly New Romantic lead single Outsiders, with it’s stadium-sized drums and euphoric vocal hooks.
The band didn’t dwell on their new songs; old favourites Filmstar, Trash and Animal Nitrate followed and were greeted with ecstatic mass singalongs. Nineties heartthrob Anderson performed most of the set from the photographer’s pit, taunting punters while bassist Mat Osman, Oakes, and keyboard player/guitarist Neil Codling watched over the near-hysterical scene with grins.
Despite some dodgy keyboard audio during Everything Will Flow, Codling’s acoustic guitar sparkled during the laidback ballad She’s In Fashion and the quickly-picked, anthemic Beautiful Ones. The band returned for an encore of Saturday Night, but disappointed some by omitting New Generation. The price to pay for a stolen designer shirt, or a band shattered after another high-energy performance?
It’s easy to see why Suede hearts Hong Kong: the fans are unabashedly devoted, and the band thrives on the thrill and romance of the city. “See you in another couple of years,” said Anderson, signing off with a wave. The hollering for a second encore continued well after the lights came up and the sound guy had gone home.