When I first knew that Alcest was going to have a concert date in Hong Kong and mainland China, I was secretly hoping that there would be a continuation downwards in South East Asia (more specifically Singapore). However, I couldn’t be patient enough for wait for that imaginary wishful thinking and coupled with the fact that Alcest is an act that I desperately wanted to see live who doesn’t seem to foray into the continent of Asia much, so, without much hesitation, I booked my flights for Hong Kong.
The concert was held at the premier Hong Kong underground live music venue in the region of Kwun Tong, nestled within an industrial building – Hidden Agenda. To be frank, it took me considerable amount of time and effort to locate the venue. I arrived relatively early and when I was milling around the venue, I heard the soundcheck segment, needless to say, my excitement level escalated within a heartbeat and I already couldn’t help but smile, knowing this will be the beginning of a very good night indeed.
The night started with the opening track of Alcest’s latest album Shelter – Wings where Neige and the rest of the musical accompaniment making the entrance onto the stage. Wings seamlessly transited to the Opale where the jubilant riffs welcomed the crowd with the signature Alcest-esque soundscape. To say seeing Neige live right in front of me (I planted myself in the front row) was completely exhilarating is probably an understatement.
It didn’t take me long before I fully immersed myself in the said Alcest-esque soundscape, which blended into Summer’s Glory from the Les Voyages De L’Âme album. The 300-400 strong audience stands transfixed, lost, as if witnessing something truly magical, and indeed Alcest is a magical musical journey to behold. At such an early juncture of the concert, I already found myself plummeting with reckless abandon into the ranks of lush aural bliss that Neige so effortlessly conjures.
Summer’s Glory flowed through onwards to L’aveit Des Muses from the Shelter album. Its cascading introduction leading the hypnotized audience into yet another deeper recess of the fuzz of sonic bliss, and somewhere somehow, I still can’t be fully cognizant of the fact that I am actually watching Alcest live in the flesh. The audience was treated to the live rendition of the crushingly epic track – Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles from Les Voyages De L’Âme album, which happens to be my favourite song from the above-mentioned album. Towards the accumulative magnificent climax of the song, my normal breathing and mental processes momentarily suspended themselves as I plunged myself into a volley of headbangs; and within my dull soul, the floodgates of ecstatic joy were flung wide open.
After the madness that Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles provided us, Neige brings us to a restive mental point with the deeply serene Voix Sereine. I felt a deep sense of peace, repose and contentment with Voix Sereine that I haven’t felt in a long while, engulfed in this ball of Alcest-ian tranquility. Something quite divine happened as I started to feel a deep and reverberating sense of warmth generated from within myself, I think the closest description of this sensation is akin to a religious experience. A manifestation of some otherworldly prowess is clearly at work here, in the form of the prodigal shoegaze post-metal prince – Neige.
The title track of the album Shelter and the song Autre Temps from Les Voyages De L’Âme followed suit in rapid succession, further treating the audience with the musical perfection. I honestly can’t wrap my head at how Neige composes his works, everything is so structurally concise and effective. Such abilities are clearly beyond the means and comprehension of most humans.
Neige treated us to another wildly crowd-popular song – Percées de Lumière from Écailles de Lune, which led the audience instantaneously into an uproar of immense approval, myself included naturally. To hear the guttural vocals live from Neige sends chills down the fibres of my being. And to see Neige bent over to work on his guitar magic, gazing down in detached countenance, in such a sorrowfully beautiful composure is a maddeningly spectacular sight to behold. Percées de Lumière ended and came the another Alcest classic of grandeur proportions Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde from the similarly titled album which is mightily perfect beast of an album, by the way. During this song, Neige walked in my direction and stood directly in front of me, I found myself melting away, my mental faculties shut down, and my breathing temporarily ceased. During this song, I found myself cocooned in this special frame of suspended humane functioning, I celebrate wordlessly, for words would be rendered futile in describing such state of minds.
I think it would be too cruel of Neige to bring us to such an exalted state of happiness and leave us stranded when him and the band left the stage. This would be like giving someone a full meal without a drink to wash down the food; it clearly does not feel right. The audience agreed with me and started to chant repeatedly “Alcest! Alcest! Alcest!” or “Encore! Encore! Encore!”. Thankfully, Neige and the rest of Alcest live accompaniment walked back up stage, seeing how parched the audience were and offered the closure to the beautiful night with Sur l’Océan Couleur de fer from Écailles de Lune and Délivrance from Shelter.
Neige or collectively Alcest treated the blessed audience with intervals of epic beauty and exultant bliss. With this encore, he adjusted our frame of minds to a restive point with Sur l’Océan Couleur de fer, as if guiding a child to rest after a day-trip Alcest-ian adventure. An ethereal pavilion for the weary traveler in Alcest lands. The swansong of the night was the magnus opus 10 minutes worth song of Délivrance, Neige coaxes us even deeper into a complete repose. I remained completely motionless, breathless; certain that my physical body has disintegrated and what is left is the collective sense of bliss that I shared so humbly with the rest of the audience and the band.
Standing back-facing the audience and towards the guitar amplifier stacks, Neige continues to feed sonic vibes as the rest of the band started to leave the stage one by one, leaving him alone as the song fades into a supreme closer, with the lights dimmed. A faint silhouette representing what Alcest is: a sole mastermind whose music speaks for itself, all-encompassing, triumphant and accomplished. The deed is done. The song has ended. Yet the audience stands in suspended action, absorbing the love and beauty that Alcest so very generously offered that night. Silence came and subsequently the thunderous applause too.
Thank you, Neige. Thank you, Alcest.
Nevermind the fact that I am the only Singaporean amidst the Hong Kong audience watching this incredibly brilliant French band. This only confirms that music is an universal language and an universal gift to be treasured and savoured.
Your blessed and humbled listener,