Visibly ill band disappoints despite int'l backing, new records
Even before the concert, all five members of Big Bang reeked of fatigue. The press conference preceding the evening show Friday was meant to celebrate the 25-city 16-nation world tour they were about to embark on, but instead, G-Dragon, T.O.P (Choi Seung-hyun)., Taeyang, Daesung and Seungri were demure, even aloof. They sneezed and coughed sporadically.
Above picture: Big Bang members T.O.P (Choi Seung-hyun)., left, and and G-Dragon perfom on the first night of the "Big Bang Alive Tour 2012" at the Olympic Gymnastics Stadium, Seoul, Friday. / Courtesy of YG Entertainment
"We're definitely not in our best condition", said Taeyang. "But we'll make sure you won't see that on stage".
While he kept his word, others failed to match his level of energy or panache.
The first night of the "Big Bang Alive Tour 2012" was a mixed bag ― even after taking into consideration the members' less than perfect health ― because it offered little new.
The overall "upgrade" by celebrity creative director Laurieann Gibson of Lady Gaga fame added little excitement. Some of her influences actually worked to the show's detriment.
The backup band, provided by Live Nation, the world's largest concert promoter/organizer, was the biggest plus; it is something hopefully other K-pop bands will emulate in the future.
Working non-stop and achieving massive success in Korea and Japan since their debut at the end of 2006, Big Bang seems to be suffering from overexposure. Five years into their career, they have had four albums, seven EPs, four compilations ― and five tours on top of countless live-television performances.
Some of the band members, therefore, seemed to go through the motions instead of adding some extra spice or improvising. They did not give their best, though none of the predominantly teenage female crowd seemed to mind.
Nothing was out of sync, with the exception of Daesung's off-pitch high-note in the beginning. Every fiber of their muscle tissues knows every move of each song by now. They breezed through the set of 20-something hits with few breaks.
The members naturally looked most interested when they sang the tracks from their just-released "Alive" EP because this was their first time performing them. All of them were "great pop records", as Gibson had said in the press conference, and the audience responded with the loudest cheers of the night.
Taeyang was the only exception to the group members' general disinterest. Gibson likened him to the late Michael Jackson, and in time, he may come close to proving that bold statement.
Though the smallest in stature among the five, he had the most stage presence; even when he was not singing, all eyes were naturally drawn to him; there was always something happening. It was obvious how much he loved being on stage, giving his all, reveling in the well-deserved cheers the adoring crowd was showering him with.
His Usher-like t-shirt ripping could be limited to just once for the evening, though.
The Live Nation band was a welcome addition and provided great enhancements to songs like "Fantastic Baby", "Bad Boy" and especially "Blue". The Olympic Gymnastics Stadium's usual horrifying acoustics notwithstanding, they proved why music should be experienced in a live concert.
Sound engineers must be called out for their extraordinarily poor performance. T.O.P (Choi Seung-hyun)'.s rap was rarely intelligible because the volume was too low and the microphone too muddy, while Seungri's weak vocals were noticeably compressed and pumped up. G-Dragon sang and rapped brilliantly live, but his voice was too processed for the audience to appreciate.
In general, Gibson and her team took the fun out of a live concert by packaging Big Bang's usually crowd-friendly and interactive show into a rather distant affair, having them churn out medleys of hits without much time to actually connect with the adoring fans.
Much like a greatest-hits tour of a seasoned American pop artist, there were pyrotechnics and colorful lighting to set different moods as the show progressed. As great as they would look as a photograph, they did not add much to the experience. The nonsensical computer-generated images on the giant screens were of comic value.
The whole night, the band members were conspicuously independent, never interacting with each other unless speaking to fans. Unlike other K-pop groups, they rarely had heavily-choreographed dance routines either.
Therefore, to maintain that vibrant Big Bang character, of five individual members performing with their own character, they needed to be in optimal shape.
Unfortunately on this particular night, they were not. And they did not deliver.
Knock Out/High High
Strong Baby/ What Can I Do
Gara Gara Go
Ain't No Fun
Only Look at Me/Wedding Dress/Where U At
Sunset Glow (Encore)
By Kwaak Je-yup
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