I Went to B.A.P Live on Earth 2014

I’ve been both busy and ill this last week, which is never the best combo for this blog, but here we go now.

It was the experience I felt I had to have. After almost three years without such an opportunity, last weekend I finally made it to a full-on K-Pop concert (That incredible late 2011 K-Pop extravaganza came a few months before I cared). Though my enthusiasm for the genre probably peaked last year, when I came pretty damn close to attending a similar event before it fell through, I am by no means done with appreciating K-Pop and even if I was, I have bought so many albums and written so many words about it already that to move on without having seen it live in its purest form would have been a real shame.

Enter TS Entertainment and their always busy headline act, six-member male group B.A.P.

Also known as “A K-Pop World Tour That Actually Includes Australia – Wow.”

Sydney’s Big Top in Luna Park was packed for the May 10 performance event and there was a surprisingly decent contingent of older and male fans getting into the swing of things (I had expected an almost completely teenage fangirl demographic in the crowd and was happy to be proved wrong). As I mentioned in a K-Pop countdown two years ago, B.A.P’s musical output does tend to have a more universal appeal than most male K-Pop groups, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

I’ve seen my fair share of live K-Pop performances online through the wonders of YouTube, but almost all of those came from either music shows or massive concerts featuring several groups, so I still had plenty of questions about what a single-group concert would look and sound like. How long would the set be? Would there be a warm-up act? How would the members cope with the significant physical demands of such a concentrated event? Do K-Pop concerts do encores?

For the record, the answers are about two hours, no, by taking regular breaks with interludes, and apparently yes (in the most obviously telegraphed fashion ever – leaving your debut song out of the main set is a pretty strong hint)).

The boys belt out a number.

The boys belt out a number at the Big Top, with fans holding up glowing “matoki” souvenirs.

I’ve only been to a dozen or so concerts in my life, mostly of the rock variety, but my favourite ones have always been those that treated the concert platform as a unique way to deliver their content to the fans. In other words, seeing you perform your songs is great and all, but give me something I’m not going to find on just another one of your albums, whether that’s a song rearrangement, some memorable banter, a few unexpected B-sides or some fancy visuals. In this department, B.A.P Live on Earth absolutely smashed it.

With the caveat of a few amusing misspellings and grammatical errors, the technical presentation of the concert was right up there with the best I’ve seen in person. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a show that didn’t know what to do with the obligatory screen behind the stage, leading to ho-hum psychedelic moving shapes or flashes that may or may not actually mesh with the performer/band’s style. No such problem here. From the lengthy, multi-phase introductory sequence to the diverse animated interludes to the occasionally word-synchronised, song-specific backing visuals, an “alien matoki (B.A.P’s rabbit-esque mascots) invasion” theme ran through the night and everything was right on point.

The interludes alone deserve special mention, as I never felt like I was waiting anxiously for the next set of songs while watching them. Some were nonsensical, like one featuring mismatched romantic quotes and images of coffee cups to the sound of A Great Big World’s Say Something, some were cheesy, like a Rocky-style workout montage following a screen full of Mohammed Ali quotes, and some were funny, like a super-basic interactive choreography lesson complete with two onstage dancers in horse head masks and a tongue-in-cheek reference to “controlling the hormones” of the audience. But all of them were entertaining.

Himchan, Yongguk, Jongup, Daehyun, Younjae and Zelo looking way less sweaty than they were onstage.

As for the performers themselves, the six B.A.P members showed exactly why they have such a hard-working professional reputation. I still think Himchan needs to learn how to smile (Why did he rob us of the infamous “The loof is on fire” line?) and almost everyone is still a bit underdone in the English pronunciation department (see one of last month’s guest posts for more on that) but their choreography was powerful and they really did look like they were enjoying themselves onstage, even making fun of themselves at a few points. Pretty much all of the microphone vocals were live, which of course is never a guarantee in the dance-heavy K-Pop industry, and man, Daehyun can freaking sing. Though he did stumble on one or two occasions, throughout most of the night he was hitting high notes, nailing falsettos and capping crescendos with alarming consistency. Leader and primary songwriter Yongguk was happy to take a casual back seat to the others whenever he wasn’t dominating rap verses, allowing the lanky, hyperactive motormouth Zelo to absolutely steal the show on multiple occasions. His ad-libbing onstage during non-choreographed sections was always worth watching and he would have been my pick for MVP of the night if not for Jongup, who despite being the designated “dancer guy” (complete with a solo dance performance section) took on a lot more vocal work than is normally his due and did some cool ad-libbing of his own.

An aspect of the show that I did not expect was the sheer volume of chatter that B.A.P attempted between songs, especially given their largely rudimentary grasp of English. I feel like it’s something that wouldn’t be out of the ordinary in Korea, but there is clearly an emphasis placed on the ability of these performers to be all-around entertainers, which pays off in a concert environment in a big way. There was a bit of old fashioned Aussie pandering, with heavily accented references to kangaroos, meat pies and, rather amusingly given the number of underage fangirls present, a nod to the joy of a cold beer. These sections also featured moonwalks, rapid recitations of traditional Korean songs, truncated covers of Frozen numbers and Pharrell WIlliams’ Happy, plenty of Konglish and more. And there was so much waving at the end. So. Much.

Like, heaps of this.

For all those to whom the words above did not sound utterly confusing, here is the pretty substantial setlist that B.A.P performed in Sydney:

  • “UFO Sighting Intro”
  • B.A.P (Intro)
  • One Shot
  • Badman
  • Power
  • “All You Need Is Love Interlude”
  • Lovesick
  • “Starbabyz Cafe Interlude”
  • Coffee Shop
  • Body & Soul
  • “Workout Montage Interlude”
  • Punch
  • No Mercy
  • Bang x2
  • “Say Something Interlude”
  • Rain Sound
  • “Jongup Dance Solo Piece”
  • Save Me
  • “Hormone Manipulation Interlude”
  • Check On
  • Excuse Me
  • SPY
  • Hurricane
  • Dancing in the Rain
  • Stop It
  • Crash
  • “Twitter Interlude”
  • Angel (Encore)
  • “100 Second Countdown Interlude”
  • Warrior (Encore)

The length of the set was a real treat because it made some extremely rare room for a few of B.A.P’s under-appreciated B-sides. If I have one complaint about the show, it would be the absence of a Yongguk/Zelo rap duo performance, but that was arguably a long shot. The guys certainly did their reputations no harm as performers in Sydney. It certainly wasn’t a cheap ticket, but in terms of entertainment B.A.P Live on Earth well and truly gave me my money’s worth.  I wouldn’t mind a bit more of this stuff.

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