A Short, Sweet Set from Friendly Fires

Running into half your office at a concert is always awkward, but Friendly Fires were so good (as were the four pints of beer) that it didn’t matter at all.

I saw the British indie/funk band in Hong Kong, where concerts are somewhat different experiences. The venues for well-attended shows usually aren’t as grungy and specialized as Boston’s Paradise Rock Club (where the band will play in late October) or anywhere on L.A.’s Sunset Strip; however, this show was in Rotunda 3 of the Kowloonbay International Trade and Exhibition Centre, a round room that was more architecturally interesting than many convention center halls.

I arrived just in time for the opening song, “Lovesick,” which was good, but during the first two songs, lead singer Ed MacFarlane couldn’t hit high notes, either because he was totally plastered or because the sound was off — probably a bit of both. The real magic started with “Jump in the Pool,” during which MacFarlane came into the audience and created a giant dance party. The bouncers were reasonably civil and allowed people to dance with him, rather than creating an awkward empty circle in the middle of the concert hall.

MacFarlane has the tendency to appear in the most random of places throughout his set. I had been dancing around to the far left of the stage, not really paying attention, and suddenly he was right in front of me. He’d somehow shimmied past the speakers and was standing on the ledge and singing, which was pretty awesome and really helped him connect with the audience.

The last song of the regular set was “Paris,” which concluded a show-stopping and action-packed concert. The encore consisted of “Hawaiian Air” and another five-minute instrumental track that the band may have just improvised. Great stuff — I love both “Paris” and “Hawaiian Air,” and they also played “Hurting” was somewhere in there — but while the show was high-octane, the mood didn’t really vary. I love a good dance party, but I was surprised that the band didn’t even play “Pala,” the title track from their new album. It seemed like a disservice to the Friendly Fires’ versatility.

It also didn’t help that the set was really short. Bands don’t come to Hong Kong often, so they tend to play 90-minute to two-hour sets. The Friendly Fires’ was exactly an hour, which was so short that people didn’t believe it was over and waited for a second encore.

But regardless, the concert was a great hour-long dance party. I’d definitely see the Friendly Fires again. Given their popularity here, it may only be a matter of time until they’re back. Next time, I’m sure they’ll play a longer set.

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