House of the Dragonfly
This is another text-based post, but I had the opportunity to see BIGBANG live in Osaka last weekend and I thought it would be appropriate to share the experience.
The first time I saw BIGBANG was about a year ago for the Alive tour. My friends and I had some of the worst seats in the house. I was accustomed “experiencing” live performances from the perspective of a camera, aka very close and very focused. I knew the Korean versions of the songs better than the Japanese versions. I didn’t know any of the fan chants. And, finally, while “Fantastic Baby” was a great song the first 500 times, I was kind of sick of it by that time and I didn’t feel the need to hear it 5 times in the course of a single 3 hour concert, especially when there were other BIGBANG songs I wanted to hear. All in all, I felt that concert was a huge bust.
I then went to see G-Dragons solo concert and had an almost totally opposite experience. Seats relatively close to the stage. GD can’t really speak Japanese so he mostly used English or Korean. He sang or rapped pretty much exclusively in Korean. Because as a solo artist he had less material to select from, he got to perform a few lesser-known songs. And by this time, I had got the hang of being a fan.
I was worried that my third concert experience would revert back to the Alive tour feeling, considering it was the whole group’s concert. But it turns out I needn’t have worried. The seats were astoundingly close, I understood more Japanese, they performed a bunch of songs in Korean, and they only sang “Fantastic Baby” once (they were probably as sick of it as I was).
The evening went a little something like this:
After my friends and I took our seats at the front of section B13 (!!) and sitting around for over an hour and a half (because we like to get there almost as soon as the doors open), the energy in the dome increased exponentially as the lights dimmed. First to come out were WINNER as an opener. They first performed “Officially Missing You” (which is, yes, different from BOTH Geeks’ version and Akdong Musician’s version, even though they all sound frighteningly similar) then moved on to “Go Up” before yielding the stage to BIGBANG.
In direct contrast to their bombastic entrance with “Fantastic Baby” for their Alive tour, BIGBANG opened with the quieter “Haru Haru” and “Blue.” After a few other major singles (“Bad Boy,” “ガラガラGO!!,” “Hands Up“… I feel like they also did “Top of the World” but online setlists disagree with me), Seungri had his solo stage. He went from his most recent releases “Let’s Talk About Love” and “할말 있어요” to shortened versions of “VVIP” and “어쩌라고.” Considering how he is the Japanese voice of BIGBANG, I felt it was kind of odd he did all his songs in Korean.
This transitioned into Daesung’s solo stage, and he opened with “Wings.” I was almost in tears with relief when he sang that song in Korean during the Alive concert, but I wasn’t fazed too much when he sang it in Japanese this time. He topped that off with a very energetic performance of “Joyful” (Sorry, I can only find the audio with random language subs because Japan is so freaking uptight about copyright — part of the reason I believe their music industry is floundering).
There was a break in the solo stages as all members came out to sing the downers “Tell Me Goodbye” and “Love Song.” This was the point where they did the big “floating stage,” where a huge portion of the stage rises and moves over the floor audience toward fans in the bleachers. They highlighted some VIP staff member in the audience (I’m sorry, unless it’s Yang Hyun Suk himself I’m pretty useless with identifying people… it probably could even have been Yang Hyun Suk and I just didn’t understand the Japanese pronunciation. The dude was wearing a cap, which isn’t unusual for YHS). They talked about how they were performing BIGBANG’s history (歴史, Japanese vocabulary I understand!) at this concert, which doesn’t really make sense because their opening song wasn’t their first single (which was the logic TOP used to deduce they were going through their history anyway… I don’t understand). But I immediately started trying to logic it because they leaped into a performance of “LA-LA-LA,” which is literally the first k-pop song I ever liked. It was the song that established BIGBANG as my kpop-cherry-popping bias. It was very emotional for me to finally hear a live performance of that song.
They then went through other old-skool BIGBANG songs like “BIGBANG” and “Shake It.” I don’t remember “Shake It” but as I mentioned, I’m relying on a fan-blog that published the setlist to get these straight and I have a sneaking feeling neither my memory nor the blog is 100% accurate.
Next came GD’s solo stage (again, I’m diverting from the blog which says Taeyang’s solo came first. I somehow remember being surprised that the two rappers weren’t last like I was expecting). It seemed like he was going to open up with “미치GO” but it turned out to be “Crayon,” followed by “Crooked” (in Japanese – a disappointment). I was relieved he performed those two songs, because the sleeper-hit “니가 뭔데” had been receiving the most commercial attention (it was the only song off his Coup D’état album to chart at #1) but I wasn’t a huge fan. Maybe GD isn’t, either.
Finally it was Taeyang’s turn, and I can’t even begin to describe HOW FREAKING EXCITED I was to see “Ringa Linga” live. He definitely opened with at least a shortened version of another song (“Wedding Dress”?) but I was too excited to notice which song it was and the blog yet again disagrees with me. But my anticipation was not misplaced, because the live stage for “Ringa Linga” was pretty incredible. It couldn’t capture the energy of the one-shot-like dance take or the official mv (I spent a lot of time looking at Taeyang’s back during the performace), but it was still bonkers. According to the blog, he also performed “Breakdown” and “Superstar,” but I don’t remember. I don’t know Taeyang’s discography as in-and-out as, say, GD’s, especially since I think Solar came out before I really started getting into kpop.
But a BIGBANG concert never ends when it’s “supposed” to. The audience always sings out “ 声をきかせて” (it literally means “let me hear your voice”) in order to beg for an encore.
I have a sneaking feeling they changed the set list because the blog feels really off for the end and encore, but the blog says they did “Sunset Glow,” “ 声をきかせて,” “Fantastic Baby,” (I only remember them doing “Fantastic Baby” once, but they also don’t want give up the opportunities to use the catchphrase “Osaka-laka” as many times as possible) and “Feeling” before Taeyang called out to the band, asking if they they could do a stripped-down version of “Bad Boy.” That put a really nice finishing touch on the concert.
THEN they came out on their big carts to do a lap around the dome, throwing out fan-goods and trying not to trip like GD did at his solo concert. They said their thank-yous (some more successfully Japanese than others – TOP tried to cop out by basically saying, “Yeah, what Taeyang said.”)
The entire concert was, of course, spattered with the members’ antics – most frequently making fun of other members’ singing habits. Daesung and GD were the primary targets. All in all, it was an incredible experience, well worth the ¥10,000 ticket. I feel that seeing my favorite artist perform live gives my relationship with that artist and that music an entirely new dynamic.