“In my three days in Hong Kong, I’ve gone from being scared of monkeys, to thinking they’re cool, to now hating them,” Ben Gibbard told the Macpherson stadium crowd.
The Death Cab for Cutie frontman and avid trailrunner had been making the most of the city so well-suited to his band’s multi-textured sound; a mixture of solemn ballads and anthemic indie rock.
In their HK debut, the US group attracted a fervent crowd, and the Mongkok venue’s incredible sound system ensured every song was crisp and album-perfect. Though the band was touring eighth studio album Kintsugi, the setlist picked from the past two decades and various line-ups.
Opener No Room in Frame’s poppy, optimistic melody prickles with anguish as Gibbard wrangles with the aftermath of a failed love. Death Cab’s strength has always been in turning heartbreak into perfectly poignant poetry, and the songs are no less tear-jerking live.
A stadium show was made effortlessly intimate with clever spotlighting and soft acoustic moments, used to spine-tingling effect for I Will Follow You Into The Dark and Passenger Seat. The absence of Transatlanticism’s A Lack of Colour is noted by shouting fans, but most don’t notice any holes in a polished set of gems old and new.
Guitarist and songwriter Chris Walla’s recent departure may have made some fans nervous, but fears of a weaker Death Cab have been dispelled by the capable hands of new touring players, guitarist Dave Depper and keyboard player Zac Rae.
The recent additions gave Death Cab live sound a greater richness and warmth most evident on old favourites. The instantly recognisable riff of You Are A Tourist fed from the energy of the slow-building I Will Possess Your Heart, which swirled with shoegaze reverb under soft green lighting. An encore reigns the night in and leaves a happy glow with Soul Meets Body and fan favourite, Transatlanticism. Like the fate foretold in the latter song, Death Cab and Hong Kong will cross paths again.
“Hong Kong, you’ve been lovely,” said Gibbard. “Sorry it’s taken us so long to get to you; we promise it won’t be long before we’re back.”