“Wow! Lucky LA!” Isn’t that what everyone thought?! And when I heard they were chartering a private jet for the occasion, I thought “Well, dang! This is some serious business.” When the artists arrived I heard reports of mobs of fans at the airport, saw the footage and realized, “Wow, this is big. This is seriously really, really big…” The landmark day arrived, and it was glorious. Tears were shed. Screams? OK, my hearing still hasn’t recovered.
So why the choice in venue? The president of SM explained to us “I really wanted to hold a concert at the Staples Center, [which] I see as an icon in the United States.” The fact that the Staples Center is home of the LA Lakers (woo!) didn’t go unnoticed by the artists. Leeteuk of Super Junior stated “I’m really glad to be performing in the home of the Lakers,” and Tiffany of Girls’ Generation admitted to being a big Lakers fan (which, she would… she’s from LA county too!). All the artists were shocked when they were first told that they would be performing in LA, but Siwon of Super Junior added that they would love to advance in the US if the opportunity arose. And for those of you who were there to greet Onew and the rest of the boys of SHINee at the airport, he approves and would like you to know that he’s very thankful for all the support. “Please please continue to show that kind of concern and love for us.”
The press conference was held right before the concert, and I think I speak for everyone when I say the anticipation was overwhelming. So that moment when the lights went down and the first images of the artists flickered onscreen, the atmosphere was pretty close to exploding on all of us.
The concert progress from small to huge. It started with the solo nightingale singers of the night, such as Zhang Li Yin, Kim Min and Lee Yeon Hee, women with powerful voices but not necessarily world renown. Gradually the other groups were shifted in. It was a guessing game really, knowing who was coming out next and when. They had a penchant for appearing on stage without any warning.
f(x) was the first group to perform that evening. With no break or introduction, the familiar intro of “LA CHA TA” bounced into the Staples Center and the silhouettes of the four girls came into view. Ah yes, you read that right. Four! No Amber but surprise surprise — guess who stepped in to fill Amber’s part? It was SHINee’s very own Minho. No need to reiteratehow loud the Staples Center got the moment he swaggered (yes! he swaggered!) onstage.
A lot of that was going around, surprise appearances by other artists. BoA performed “I Did It For Love” and was joined by Key who filled in for Sean Garret’s role. Super Junior performed “Don’t Don” and were later joined by Trax. Now there’s a collaboration match made in heaven. Once Trax were involved, the song took on a life of its own and became a whole nother beast. There were plenty of collaborations to go crazy over but there were also moments when we all went “Awwww” as well. Jonghyun and Yesung performed “Sea of Love”. Luna and Zhou Mi performed “Another Heaven” and Seohyun and Kyuhyun performed “Call My Heart Out”.
I would fail as a reporter if I did not mention this. That lovable violin virtuoso and Super Junior M member Henry appeared onstage. Joined by an electric violin, he unleashed what I can only describe as an earthquake of awesome. He was soon after joined by Heechul on vocals and the Trax members, X-mas on guitar with a brief cameo by Jay. The three artists launched into an epic rendition of Ivy’s “Sonata of Temptation”. Let me just say when Heechul goes solo, if that ever happens, it will be glorious. He stole that entire stage and moonwalked up and down it like a red carpet.
While that was certainly a highlight, many songs were given updated, special treatment. Super Junior’s “U” received a rock makeover which was well-received. “Sorry Sorry” originally started off as a trip-hop version but eventually sped up its original pace. Girls’ Generation performed “Genie”, but not without implementing a rock-fueled dance break to lead Tiffany up to declare her famous “DJ, put it back on.”
Many special stages occurred as well, moments that were clearly tailored to this specific show such as super sisters’ Krystal and Jessica‘s duet to Ke$ha’s “Tic-Toc”. May I just say that I am clearly a girl, but even I thought Jessica was the hottest thing since sliced bread. Later on in the evening a very awesome dance break took place. Luna, Hyoyeon, YoonA, Yuri and Sooyoung did a routine to Pitbull’s “Go Girl”. Taemin, Eunhyuk, Minho, and Shindong did a routine to Michael Jackson’s “Jam”. Taemin, dance machine beast that he is, was so absorbed in the routine. It was a treat to see his passion, and moreover the dance break was just such a thrill to watch.
For those who had been following SM Town since its humble beginnings, seeing veteran singers such as Kangta of the former boy band sensation H.O.T. and BoA were among the true highlights of today’s show. Kangta showed us that his set of pipes has the same intensity as it did ten years ago, and he performed a cute duet of “7989” with Go Ara, taking a microphone out of his jacket and serenading the audience into a fainting spell. And BoA? BoA is the type of artist who, when she performs, the audience slows down just to watch her break out her spectacular skills. She performed her classic hit “My Name”, as well as her most recent hit, “Hurricane Venus”. And… could “Dangerous” be her next big hit? We’ll see! The song certainly received a lot of love from the audience!
In terms of songs, every major song made an appearance but there were some surprises. No one expected the Trax to pull out that awesome 2006 track “Paradox”, and although “Lucifer” was much anticipated, SHINee peeled a good number of the songs they performed off of their most recent album, some which had never been performed live before. Super Junior brushed the dust off “Dancing Out”, and Girls’ Generation relived “Kissing You Baby”.
Up to now, I’ve mentioned just about everyone… except DBSK. Those of us in the audience were pretty much in the same vein of thought: “Where are they? When are they coming out?” Well, I guess when it comes to the name of DBSK, everything must be extremely epic. The lights disappeared, and everyone hears just one phrase, “We are Dong Bang Shin Ki.” The crowd had never erupted so loudly prior to this moment, and when the lights flashed back on again, U-Know and Changmin had ascended up to the ceiling of the Staples Center on cables, completely still and motionless with only booming orchestral music as the accompaniment. Let that sink in for a moment. As a duo, they performed a medley of hits, “Rising Sun”, “Purple Line”, “MIROTIC”, and “The Way You Are”. But it appears that these two are set to go solo very soon.
Changmin performed “Big Time”, which sounds like it’s going to hit all the number one slots regardless of whether he is a DBSK member or not. U-Know performed “Why” and demonstrated why Korea considers him one of the leading dancers in the country.
So what about that big finale? The SM Town artists flowed out, literally filling up the stage in their signature baby pink SM Town shirts. This was the time they let their individual motives shine through, with some recording the audience and others snapping photos. And… we can’t have a blowout ending without tons of confetti filling the stadium! It was a blissful sight, equally embraced and loved by all. And yes, there were tears. This was the moment when we all let the waterworks spill.
I can say with a lot of certainty, and despite all the technical loops, the less-than-stellar lighting, the fail audio, it was still an amazing experience, something those who survived it can feel a months-long glow about and carry on with for the rest of their lives. Personally, I’ve been to a lot of concerts, but I know without any doubt this one will never be replaced.
Many of the twenty-one-plus crowd moved onto the after-party sponsored by Kollaboration, at the Conga Room. SM Town entered the club, with hordes of girls follwing and screaming at the top of their lungs. For the most part, SM Town stayed concealed in a private room for the event, although U-Know did emerge from the room and join the DJ on stage to liven up the event. Half the club was staring at a crack through the door of the private room where the artists were at, but once U-Know emerged everyone finally filled the dance floor and began to let those anxious, wistful feelings of elation float away.