BIGBANG is one of those musical entities that transcends language. It’s one of those rare groups that both innovates and defines the direction a genre takes. Covering a sound that includes hip hop, R&B and electronic dance, BIGBANG and its solo acts (G-Dragon, T.O.P, Taeyang, Seungri and Daesung) have left a musical imprint that has affected the global music market. In fact, even Diplo, a household name in EDM, worked with G-Dragon and T.O.P for their rap album. So when the band announced its world tour to promote the release of its third full-length studio album MADE after a 3 year hiatus, fans lost their minds – including myself. In fact, tickets for each of BIGBANG’s North American legs sold out.
As a result, I was lucky enough to witness this larger-than-life Korean pop group perform a couple Saturday nights ago on Oct. 10 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. As I waited in line to enter the venue with my friends, mobs of fans raved about BIGBANG's new tracks (and surprisingly, not everyone was Asian). Leading up to this particular leg of their North American tour, BIGBANG released 2 songs every month starting from May to August, resulting in 8 freshly minted tracks.
After everyone pushed their way through security, a slew of fans rushed to the merchandise table hoping to get either apparel or light up accessories they could wave around during the concert. Being the broke boy I am, my friend and I instead made our way to our seats at the front of the upper level and waited for the BANG to make its appearance. (Floor admission was anywhere from $600 – $800.)
In the hour leading up to BIGBANG’s presence, a large screen played popular music videos from both the group as a whole and its solo acts. Though the pit was half full and other fans were sparsely scattered in the seated areas, fans emphatically cheered when their favorite idol appeared in a music video. Prudential Center wasn’t even a quarter full yet.
As the venue slowly flooded to capacity, the group finally made its appearance. Gradually, the lights dimmed while the sound of a motor revving filled the venue. Fans energetically waved their light-up flower accessories in anticipation and stood up. Almost immediately, the instrumentals to “BANG BANG BANG” blared through the speakers, and the 5 members walked out of the splitting screen previously used to play the videos. During the song, small fireworks burst from the top of the stage and popped timely on the hook’s lyric “bang.” It was then that everyone recognized the blissful hype BIGBANG was about to deliver for the rest of the night on.
As their set progressed, the band showcased their sentimental side, performing a set of slow ballads at once to drive home the theme of their first album single “LOSER,” yet also re-energized the crowd with another set of R&B and pop songs. In between, as if to both recharge their energy and quickly change into their costume-like clothes, each artist performed a song from his solo work. This break from the group’s work gave more casual fans a chance to witness how the band dedicated its time during its hiatuses.
The ultimate highlight came during T.O.P’s solo “DOOM DADA.” Adorning a suit printed with Mondrian’s patented “Composition” painting, instead of rapping his line, T.O.P looked at the audience and winked. And during that moment, my jaw dropped, and I questioned my sexuality.
In between a set of maybe three or four songs, the band either took the time to interact with the audience or reveal extended scenes from their Quentin Tarantino-inspired short film uploaded in April.
It was when the band members spoke to the audience that these Korean idols brought themselves down to earth. Despite occasionally tripping over their rehearsed English lines, each member gave us a glimpse of his more personal side. Some had further solidified their reputations. For instance, Daesung, the goofy, go-lucky singer and drummer, introduced himself just by yelling “YEAH” to the audience at least 5 times and waited for the audience’s response between each. T.O.P re-asserted himself as the cool, collected bad boy, asserting, “Yeah… You know who I am” when it was his turn at the microphone.
The others seemed to break out of fan expectations. While Seungri was the most mysterious before the concert, known more for his dancing than his singing, he ended up being the most charismatic of the group and spoke the most English. Taeyang also shed the hip hop image he tries to convey in his videos when he’s clad in Supreme. His initial interaction with the audience was inviting the fans to sing pitches with him, and later on, he would be the one to interject between the other members’ later interactions with the audience. And while G-Dragon is the eclectic leader of the group, he was surprisingly toned down compared to the chameleon style that has garnered him the attention of fashionheads everywhere.
The biggest surprise, though, was the group’s capacity for profanity. In an attempt to hype up the audience for his solo “Strong Baby,” Seungri yelled at the audience to “MAKE SOME FUCKING NOISE.” For his part in “Zutter,” T.O.P repeatedly rapped “bitch” despite his line only requiring him to say it once. And at the end, G-Dragon introduced the final song as “FANTASTIC MOTHERFUCKING BABY.”
Of course, there are more moments that I could cover – like how Daesung made a scene about revealing his hair-covered eyes, or how he pelvic thrusted to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” or how T.O.P still uncoordinatedly dances in the back – but these moments are boring to read and seem underwhelming on paper.
If there’s one thing to take away, it’s that this concert was an electric, out-of-body experience. I had the privilege of being in the presence of some of my favorite artists, foolishly screaming and singing and dancing along to some of my favorite songs live — all without the influence of drugs and alcohol. Despite their huge break, this comeback concert only proved that BIGBANG’s presence is stronger than ever and cemented my opinion that they’re the absolute best in Korean pop. Unfortunately, as the concert concluded, the very real idea that each member would undergo required conscription loomed closer. But it didn’t matter — if this was BIGBANG’s last world tour, it ended perfectly. If there is another years from now, though, I can’t wait to be there too.