Crowds gravitate to Nell shows after release of ‘Newton’s Apple’

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 7, 2014 - 20:26
  • Updated : Apr 7, 2014 - 21:19
South Korea’s signature alt-rock band Nell delivered a series of live performances last week at the Blue Square Samsung Card Hall in Seoul, showcasing its new studio album “Newton’s Apple.”

Nell’s concert on Friday night was best described as intimate, emotional and sentimental. Throughout the entire performance, the band’s dreamlike sounds and heartfelt lyrics drew in listeners like gravity, living up to the theme of its recent album.

Since its debut 15 years ago, Nell has had a distinct style that retains a particular feeling of calmness and poignancy throughout its compositions, no matter how upbeat, slow, melancholy or bright its sounds may be.

This characteristic was reflected in the audience. Though everybody remained standing for the entire duration of the show and ardently cheered, clapped and sang along, an air of concentration remained throughout the performance, which lasted more than two hours.
Nell performs at the Blue Square Samsung Card Hall in Seoul on April 4. (Hakunamatata Company)

Nell’s vocalist and leader Kim Jong-wan, guitarist Lee Jae-kyung, bassist Lee Jung-hoon and drummer Chung Jae-won took the stage as guest artist Sim Z from the rock band Pia provided the necessary sound effects alongside the members.

The band opened up the night with the anticipatory, instrumental track “Decompose,” as the curtains slowly parted and the hall was filled with grandiose synthesizer sounds. The screen read, “Hello. We are Nell. Are you ready?”

Nell soon appeared on a dimly lit stage, launching into the melodic guitar chords and steady drumbeats that rang with nostalgia in “Memories of a Stranger.”

“I didn’t mean what I said ... I actually felt the opposite ... I wanted you to hold on,” sang Kim Jong-wan during a heart-wrenching delivery of “History of Silence,” which ended with the resonating phrase “Silence can be violent” appearing on the screen.

Nell performed a number of songs from their new and old albums, including “Newton’s Apple” “Fantasy,” “Escape From Extinction” and “Four Times Around the Sun” as well as old hits such as “Time Walking On Memory,” “Moonlight Punch Romance,” “1:03” and “Becoming Distant.”

A significant part of the performance featured not only the band’s sounds and beats but also flashy lighting ― works of visual art in itself ― that enhanced and appropriately matched the theme of each song.

During “Four Times Around the Sun,” yellow lights from all parts of the stage fell onto the floor and met the lights that were shot upward from the bottom, creating a solid beam that resembled a gravitational force or perhaps the sun’s rays.

A mirror ball came down during the chorus of “Night of Resurrection,” creating a space-like effect throughout the concert hall while countless white lights fell onto the stage and emanated into the audience during “Ocean of Light,” forming a surreal atmosphere. Colorful confetti and lights decorated the stage during “Words You Shouldn’t Believe.”

Most rock bands typically conclude concerts on an energetic note, promising to return soon to fans as they play an upbeat song. Such was not the case with Nell, known for its distinctively gloomy sound.

Nell fittingly ended the night with “Grey Zone,” wistfully but energetically singing “We are ― so much better ― when we are ― not together.” Even after the band had exited the stage, a sense of nostalgia seemed to linger in the audience, a testimony to Nell’s empathetic and alluring musicality.

By Sohn Ji-young (jiyoung.sohn@heraldcorp.com)