I Went to Bigbang’s MADE Tour 2015

The first of two concerts I’ll hopefully be writing about before the end of the year! This post got long…

Well what a treat that was.

In the world of K-Pop, there are few bigger acts than Big Bang (Is that the right way to write it? I’m never sure – Should it be Bigbang? Or BIGBANG, even? Let’s just go with the way that makes the most English sense). Debuting nine long years ago, the YG Entertainment flagship group has been consistently at the top of the K-Pop consciousness for a while, and has amassed quite a considerable reputation in the Western music world as well. Outside of PSY and perhaps Girls’ Generation, there isn’t a more widely recognised K-Pop name than Big Bang. Just about every solo release from the group’s five extremely busy members is met with pandemonium by fans, and when all five get together, well, that’s something else.

So it was a big enough deal when Big Bang announced earlier this year that they would be coming out with their first release(s) as a group since 2012. I never expected that in their subsequent world tour announcement, Australia would be included. Yes, the country ritually ignored by the big name Korean music labels, especially since the relatively disappointing – though still loud and passionate – attendance at 2011’s poorly-marketed K-Pop Festival. Yep, the arrival of Big Bang on our shores for the first time – for two rapidly sold-out shows no less (and a reactively added third) – is probably going to be pretty significant for Korean pop music fans down under going forward.

But never mind all that. Big Bang’s second Sydney show, which I was lucky enough to attend alongside five friends, was just a really good time.

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Yep, it really happened.

I’ve been to one K-Pop concert before – B.A.P’s Live on Earth tour appearance in Sydney last year, and it was a lot of fun. But this was next level. Yeah, that’s mostly because Allphones Arena is a much bigger and more technically impressive venue than the Big Top, of course, not to mention Big Bang has more money to put into a spectacular show than B.A.P does. The boys from YG have also been around for far longer, and have built their name up over a sizeable body of work. G-Dragon, T.O.P, Daesung, Seungri and Taeyang are walking legends in their field, and they wouldn’t have had to do much to send the beyond-feverish crowd into raptures. Yet if you ask me, they matched their much younger colleagues in just about every way on stage, turning what was already a major event into one hell of a night.

Sitting down to write this days after the fact brings out my analytical tendencies, and yet it really is hard to put into words how manic the atmosphere was inside that arena. The screams, the lights, the thin air, the sheer roar, they all defy description. When the lights dimmed and the immaculately-produced MADE intro cinematic began to play on the big screen, I feared my ears might fall off. Not that I wasn’t contributing just a tiny bit to the hysteria, mind you. I haven’t felt less composed at the opening of a concert since I first saw Matchbox Twenty live eight years ago. That cliched word “surreal” comes to mind.

The structure of the concert was meticulously crafted to fit the central concept behind the MADE album, which YG Entertainment has insisted on releasing in tiny chunks throughout the course of 2015. The eight songs released on the cumulative album thus far took centre stage, with Big Bang performing seven of them and the eighth (Let’s Not Fall in Love) playing over the closing credits – Yes, that’s right, the production was so large in scale it had an end credits crawl. Pre-recorded video interludes popped up on screen frequently to mask the group’s costume changes, and each one placed a different Big Bang member in a mundane-yet-deeply-unsettling situation. While I’m sure a lot of people were involved in the production of the videos, the whole thing had G-Dragon’s abstract-artsy fingerprints all over it.

The insanely popular quintet in action in Sydney.

There wasn’t a whole lot of room for anything else bar the group’s very biggest hits (Think acoustic Haru Haru, Tonight and of course Fantastic Baby), especially given the massive diversion into each member’s solo discography that came around the halfway mark of the concert. Luckily this diversion was, in my opinion, the highlight of the whole night, as it gave the crowd a perpetually beaming Daesung acrobatically leaping around the vocal passages of Wings, an extended rendition of Taeyang’s Eyes, Nose, Lips my number one song of last year – that absolutely brought the house down, and a powerful show-stealing sucker punch in the form of 2008 Seungri solo Strong Baby.

This was the set list:

  • “MADE elevator intro”
  • Bang Bang Bang
  • Tonight
  • Stupid Liar
  • “Banter 1”
  • Haru Haru (Acoustic Version)
  • “T.O.P. Bathroom Interlude”
  • Loser
  • Blue
  • “Banter 2”
  • Bad Boy
  • “G-Dragon TV Interlude”
  • If You
  • “Seungri Photoshoot Interlude”
  • Strong Baby (Seungri solo)
  • “Daesung City Interlude”
  • Wings (Daesung solo)
  • Doom Dada (T.O.P solo)
  • “Taeyang Car Interlude”
  • Eyes, Nose, Lips (Taeyang solo)
  • Zutter (G-Dragon & T.O.P solo)
  • Good Boy (G-Dragon & Taeyang solo)
  • Crooked (G-Dragon solo)
  • Sober
  • Bae Bae
  • “Banter 3”
  • Fantastic Baby
  • “All Together/Hangover Interlude”
  • We Like to Party (Encore)
  • “Band Showcase”
  • Bang Bang Bang (Reprise)
  • “Ending Credits” (to Let’s Not Fall in Love)

Big Bang is one of the few K-Pop groups that can get away with crafting an entire set list of a decent length without including even one B-side, so quite a few of my favourite Big Bang songs didn’t make the cut. It would have been nice to hear Love Song, or Monster, or even Lies, but really it’s hard to see how they could have fit into the grand scheme of things. I will say it was a bit disappointing that Bang Bang Bang was deemed important enough to both open and close the show, though. Given the strong design of the rest of the show, that particular decision smacked of a lack of imagination. But it hardly ruined the show.

A touch I was not expecting was the presence of a live band throughout the night, which not only added authenticity to the mostly live (and largely impressive) vocals on show, but also tweaked the vibe of certain songs. T.O.P’s solo Doom Dada, for example, sounded much heavier than normal with the addition of thrashing guitars, while Blue took on a very different, ethereal 1980s-style tone with the live keyboard backing. And that last chorus of Eyes, Nose, Lips – again, wow.

The well-dressed Big Bang in the MADE intro cinematic.

Visually it was easy to see why YG Entertainment picked Allphones as the venue for the Sydney shows, as the versatility of the stage and effects was put to great use. There were see-through bridges that moved over the sea of standing fans, multiple trap doors, rotating translucent platforms, colour-changing steps, jets of flame, deliberately timed mini-explosions and an insane volume of streamers/confetti. At one point there was a faux-electric guitar with a laser shooting out of it. It didn’t feel like too many expenses were spared for us Sydneysiders, that’s for sure.

A final mention must go to the onstage personas of each Big Bang member. Much like at the B.A.P show last year, there was plenty of time devoted to interaction with the crowd, and while it was obvious some members had a better grasp of English than others, none of them came across as trying to throw together a dish of heavily accented English word salad, which was nice. Big Bang really did look like they were enjoying finally being in Australia after all these years, and though noted joker Daesung was responsible for most of the hilarity throughout the night, everyone got involved in a bout of playful showmanship near the end of the show that forced group maknae (youngest member) Seungri to attempt to cover Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack four times – with limited success. As I’m sure he always does, T.O.P seemed to lap up the endless screaming fangirl attention throughout the night, and he responded with good humour. Comparatively, G-Dragon and Taeyang were quiet, letting their performances do most of the talking, but they reacted to the crowd and their fellow performers with verve and quite a bit of laughter. There was no weak link, and that was awesome to see.

That said, my pick for MVP of the night would have to be Seungri, with Daesung a close second. The latter’s stage antics were always worth watching, his powerful vocals were near-flawless, and his live drumming on Sober was a huge bonus. Yet Seungri resembled a hyperactive child at times, drawing constant energy from the crowd and refusing to shut up whenever he had the spotlight. He seemed up for anything, and his snappy solo performance was just astonishingly good.

I can’t help but feel lucky that I got to see a K-Pop act as gigantic as Big Bang in Australia, and I don’t know whether I’ll ever see a Korean concert that tops the sheer level of polish and power of this experience. The considerable reputation of the mega-group is thoroughly deserved. Bravo.

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