Since their formation in 2014, Hyukoh has progressively built a successful path of their own. After participating on the variety show Infinity Challenge in 2015, the band gained mainstream popularity, topped charts, toured the world, had the song “Citizen Kane” featured in a TV commercial for iPhone X, and now prepares to perform at Coachella in April.
Among their busy agenda was also the 24: How To Find True Love And Happiness Tour, which started last year with numerous stops in the US and Asia. In 2019, the quartet headed to the European leg of the tour and performed in thirteen cities — of which I had the pleasure to attend the second-to-last show on March 13, in Lisbon.
The excitement was palpable in the few minutes of electronic instrumentals before Hyukoh stepped on stage. The crowd, comprising a diverse mix of genders, ages, and nationalities, cheered anxiously. It was the band’s first time in Portugal — a country that seldom holds Korean concerts — making the occasion even more special. Some fans had handwritten numbers on their hands, indicating they had been waiting in line for hours, in the hopes of standing a little bit closer to their idols. While Hyukoh is far from being a K-pop group, their fans share similar passion and devotion.
When the band finally appeared from behind the curtains, magic started to happen. But not in the usual showmanship of live performances. Hyukoh’s charm lies precisely in their nonchalance: there is no showing off, no starstruck moments or explosions. Just four young, easygoing men doing what they love to do — and therefore crafting an alchemy more powerful than any special effects.
Frontman Oh Hyuk’s demure sets the tone for the night, and the audience is bound to an introspective trip into the band’s atmospheric soundscape. The singer’s mellifluous voice echoed like an enchanting spell, blending seamlessly with bassist Im Dong-geon’s chill vibe and guitarist Lim Hyun-jae’s soulful chords. Drummer Lee In-woo’s enthusiasm accents their spotless harmony, and together they sailed through the night.
The lullaby “SkyWorld” opened the setlist, soothing us into Hyukoh’s world. Shortly followed was “Wi Ing Wi Ing,” featuring an ecstatic crowd chanting the chorus. As the name of the tour indicated, most songs performed were from their latest EP of the same name, such as “Graduation” and “Gang Gang Schiele.” But past singles also had their time, as “Comes and Goes” transported us directly to a relaxing summer feel, “Wanli” sounded even more entrancing in unison with the audience, and “Tomboy,” as expected, stood as a stellar highlight.
In a short ment, Oh Hyuk explained that the EP and tour were named after the desire of finding true love and happiness. While he mentioned to be searching for those things still, he hopes the public can find them as well. Multiple times during the concert, his sweet “obrigados” (thank you, in Portuguese) delighted and drew out loud cheers from the audience. It’s impossible not to be captivated by the singer’s serene presence, often making you feel like a close friend with whom he shares the ebb and flow of life.
A particularly moving moment happened when the band left the stage before the encore. The crowd suddenly stopped yelling “come back,” and started to sing the chorus for “Love Ya!,” their latest single that had just been performed. The anthemic song is a celebration of love, enhancing the synergetic moment between artists and fans. Upon their return, In-woo was smiling from ear to ear.
For undisclosed reasons, the encore stage skipped one of my favorite songs, “Tokyo Inn,” and the concert was wrapped up after “Settled Down.” Lasting roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes, my only complaint would be that it was too short for Hyukoh’s greatness.
The band soars live, bringing their unique experimentalism to life and allowing for a multidimensional experience of textures, senses, and sounds. While we may all be in search of true love and happiness, concerts like this offer us a swift yet remarkable snap of both.
(Images via Frank Lebon, DooRooDooRoo Artist Company.)