The weather in Norcal has been on the grumpy side: days of pouring rain and the sun MIA for a while now (oh Taeyang, where did you go?). Despite the glum weather, the city of San Jose lit up on June 3rd in the presence of JYJ as the trio wrapped up their last stop in North America for their World Tour 2011 at the San Jose State University (SJSU) Event Center.
Preconcert: a fan galore
Though the concert was set to kick off at 8:00PM, the excitement and happiness from the fans was emitting throughout the venue several hours beforehand. I arrived at SJSU around 5:00PM and saw the campus flooded with fans mingling and JYJ4SF (main organizing group) passing out freebies. There was one setup that gave away red light-up finger clips, and another that had a guestbook for attendees to sign.
(“Until the end, forever I will love you”)
Luckily for San Jose concert goers, June 4th is Micky Yoochun’s birthday! Volunteers were passing out handmade (drawn, colored, cut, and paste) birthday support cutouts. These were shaped as Mickey Mouse ears with a drawing of Yoochun and a birthday shoutout in the center (quite adorable ^o^!). As I strolled around the area, I was stopped by a volunteer who asked if I was interested in having a JYJ flyer. I obliged (I love collecting fan items) and she gave me a paper reading “kajima USA ♥ JYJ.” She gave me another paper with the setlist for the night, and fanchants and actions to accompany songs. This paper alone was quite impressive! It had details for when to turn on lightsticks, wave cellphones , and hold fan signs.
My experience in the preconcert time drew up nostalgic memories of the Korean Music Festival in 2008 where Cassiopeia was an exceptional force. I recall volunteers decked out in red, lined up shoulder-to-shoulder to my left and right, passing out red glow sticks and thanking everyone . I was glad to see the fandom’s preparation and professionalism have not faltered since that time. (Click thumbnails for full size)
While I waited to pick up my ticket at will call, I couldn’t help but notice a large group of attendees coalesce near by. As I drifted over, a hand reached out of the crowd, offering me a pamphlet reading “Amour Yoonjae.” The lady prompted me, “Yunjae? Please support!” I admit I am not a fervent Yunjae fan, but I admired the fans’ presence and efforts. Taking the flyer and card, I signed their banner with “hwaiting, <3 SOOMPI 🙂“. Isn’t their Goong-inspired poster just gorgeous!? Props to the artist!
As the start time drew closer, the amount of people at the venue quadrupled with more folks arriving. Of course this meant the fan force multiplied as well. When I roamed around and stopped fans to take pictures of them with their JYJ gear, I was surprised to see that many fans made a big trip to San Jose to see Junsu, Yoochun, and Jaejoong. I’m not talking about Socal, but trips from the East Coast, Canada, and even Korea! I spoke to a fan who had been to another leg of the concert in North America, but could not resist attending another one because it was that phenomenal! I definitely can’t get enough of the strength and dedication of fans!
(Fan from Korea)
As the doors opened at 7:30PM, attendees promptly lined up and began filling in the auditorium. I noticed there was one male per every ~40 girls. Also, the average age of the crowd was in the ~30-40s, a very different set of demographics compared to the past K-Pop concerts I have attended. Glancing down, I saw the gradual formation of a red ocean from the floor levels with their finger lights, glow sticks, and red Mickey Mouse headbands. Seats that were closed off had large banners draped on them (similar to these) that read “USA ♥ JYJ” and “San Jose Wants U.” There were two Jumbotron screen, one to the left and another to the right of the stage looped several videos, including an instructional dance video for “Be My Girl.” Every time a clip from “Mirotic” aired, the crowd screamed in approval.
Suddenly the stage lights went out, and a voice yelled “Y’all ready!?” The auditorium roared in recognition of the voice. Without any delay, JYJ set foot onto the upper stage and kicked off the thrilling night with “Empty.” The stage became saturated with red lights as the dancers stepped onto the lower floor and fans chanted “let it go, let it go” along to the chorus.
As the song drew to an end, the three boys slowly treaded up to the front of the extended stage. Standing right to left, Yoochun stood in a shimmering blue suit with a refreshing, clean hairstyle (the style he is currently wearing for Miss Ripley). At the center, Junsu was dressed in a very low-cut green suit with a sheen finish. To his left, a strawberry brown haired Jaejoong adorned a red suit with a bright red feather tucked in his shirt pocket. The overflowing momentum carried into the next song “IDS (Ideal Scenario).”
The crowd roar simmered down as “Nine,” a gentle ballad, came on next. It truthfully felt like taking a drive through clouds as Junsu and Yoochun harmonized in the swaying red sea. When the camera panned around the still backs of JYJ, a girl behind me yelled “nice ass” as soon as the Jumbotron showed Junsu’s kamo butt and sweat intensely beading down his face. Meanwhile, true to his image, I couldn’t help but notice Jaejoong ‘s face lightly glistening in sweat — a stark contrast to Junsu’s image. As Jaejoong hit a falsetto, the calmed mood of the audience broke and they frantically waved their glow sticks in support.
Leaving the audience breathless with their beautiful song, JYJ took a moment to catch their breaths. Yoochun emerged forth with “Ayo, what’s up San Jose! Really great to see you guys.” Junsu followed Yoochun’s lead in the English dialogue, “How are you doing today? Let’s have a good time together!” When it was Jaejoong’s turn, he spoke Korean and concluded with “I hope you enjoy the show.” Jaejoong’s face filled the Jumbotron and you could see his eyes intensely staring and scanning the audience in adoration.
“You ready!? Scream!!!”, Yoochun yelled as lead us to the next track, “Pierrot.”JYJ retreated to the upper stage as their female dancers swept the lower stage as ballerinas wearing white masks. The boys pumped the crowd as they chanted “yongwonhi bye bye bye” in unison in the chorus. As the arena lights went out and on again, JYJ appeared on the lower stage with mic stands for the next song “Be My Girl.” Though this mellow track required minimal dancing, Junsu held the crowd’s energy with his body waves. The song came to an end as Junsu sang “you should be my girl” with closed eyes and a slight smirk.
A behind-the-scenes clip of the photo shoot for their album “The Beginning” played on the screen as JYJ went backstage to change clothes. Suddenly sirens blared throughout the auditorium and a heavy bass bellowed. JYJ emerged in black suits with gold embellishments and a silver glove on the right hand for the sixth track “Be the One.” The boys were so synchronized that you would think it was their first performance of the night! In the revived energy, the introduction to “Ayyy Girl” blasted as the dancers hundled in a circle with their arms wrapped around each other. The audience became an extra backdrop during the chorus as they sang along. In his short dance spotlight, Junsu carried out a pirouette with perfect stability and his female partner was all grins after. I have to admit Jaejoong definitely knows how to play with the crowd: he stood out in the corner of the stage, smiling and staring at the fans in the sides and corners of the room.
After JYJ exited the stage, the sound of a phone dial and piano keys echoed throughout. The stage lit up in a crimson red with dancers lined across, and Yoochun entered with his solo “I Love You.” Whenever he walked and teased the ladies, the crowd screams pierced the air. Yoochun always came across as the vocalist who was more than sufficient but did not have the opportunity to shine. But here I was blown away by his falsetto (and might I add sweat has never looked so perfect on a man). A drum break transitioned the stage to the upbeat dance track “Mission.” The trio returned with black pants and black button-down dress shirts with gold vertical stripes, topped with a black coat and white polka dots. It was incredible: they don’t sacrifice an ounce of energy from their vocals for their top-notch dancing.
The Jumbotron screens played a slideshow of photos from their 2011 World Tour Concert with an instrumental to “I Can Soar” playing in the background. The crowd began chanting “JYJ” and attemped singing a birthday song, but the lights dimmed and Junsu took to the stage with his solo “I Can Soar.” In his sleeveless V-neck, he captivated the crowd with his passionate demeanor. The particular mesmerizing aspect about Junsu is his intonation and perfect pitch. Following his group members, Jaejoong gave his solo performance “Still in Love.” The audience was enamored by his vocals, but roared in disbelief as a dancer took off his tie and jacket. As Jaejoong stepped backstage, JYJ’s dancers flooded the stage and provided a short performance of popping and breakingdancing.
The crowd simmered down in anticipation of the next track. As soon as the familiar piano tune graced the air, the room blew up in recognition and excitement. The three men returned for “Found You” from the OST of the hit drama “Sungkyunkwan Scandal.” Jaejoong and Yoochun led the room in waving their hands, and the crowd sang along the chorus “saranghae, neoreul saranghae!” It was a blissful performance as JYJ and the audience were smiling and encouraging each other.
The song drew to an end, and Yoochun spoke to the attendees, “Are you guys having a good time? Thank you so much.” He turned to Jaejoong who tried to speak, but sighed at the overwhelming duty of following Yoochun’s English. He began with “hey guys…gomawoyo,” and after some Korean he concluded with a shy “so sorry.” Junsu continued Jaejoong’s example with “um…. xie xie!” and a sweet smile.
JYJ resumed the show with “Fallen Leaves,” a gorgeous ballad filled with effortless falsettos. With this song, I was certain that JYJ is one group that one must see live to comprehend their talent. In the next ballad “Boy’s Letter,” Yoochun took the lead to the front of the extended stage. Usually at K-Pop concerts when an artist steps foot to the very front, fans swarm and mob, extending their arms in dire need. But here the fans on the floor seating did not frantically jump or stand up. They sat back in admiration, absorbing and respecting JYJ’s performance, and I applaud them for doing so. The crowd was lulled by the harmonizing, but not for long. Pumping bass emerged and Jaejoong yelled “everyone stand up!” for the remix version of “Be My Girl.” The crowd was jumping and dancing along to the choreography, swinging their hands in circles with JYJ. To top it off, the whole audience did two waves! With Junsu and Yoochun standing on opposite sides, they cued the wave to start on one side, and a consecutive one in the opposing direction.
Now for the most memorable part of the night: two staff members stepped on to the stage with a cake and announced “we wanted to stop the evening for a second… We wanted to present these gifts to you from your fans and JYJ4SF.” He faced Yoochun who put on red Mickey Mouse ears and asked the audience to sing “Happy Birthday” at the count of three. A stunned and curious Yoochun asked “who made this cake?” He turned to the room, “you? Fans? Thank you… I appreciate.”
The staff and dancers left the stage, and JYJ gathered to hug and introduce the next song, “You’re.” As Junsu made his way to the front of the extended stage, Yoochun and Jaejoong joked around in the back, offering each other the right of way first. When the three reunited at the front, two fans ran to the front and offered a set of red Mickey Mouse ears for Jaejoong. Junsu snagged it and attempted to put them on the earless-Jaejoong. Yoochun and Junsu ended the song by jokingly crowding around Jaejoong with their mics as he sang the last note.
As JYJ stepped off stage, lights came back on: this is fan’s worst nightmare because it usually means the show has come to an end, but the audience wouldn’t have it! They commenced chanting JYJ and stomping unfaltered for minutes. The lights soon dimmed again and the screen lit up with a green pulsating EKG diagram. Answering the fans’ calls, the boys returned to the spotlight with “Get Out” in white shirts reading “JYJ” in glittering red print paired with jackets and jeans. The night continued with the remix version of “Empty.” The boys took their jackets off for the hot track featuring a dance solo from Junsu. The thrilled crowd held their breath as Junsu pop-and-locked, tutted, pushed himself off the ground with a handstand, and recovered with flawless adlib.
Although the fan instructions requested no screaming during the last song, the crowd couldn’t resist chanting “JYJ” as the final song “In Heaven” came on. This was my favorite track: a sincere and climatic ballad saturated with harmonizations and falsettos that could repeatedly send chills down your back. Little by little, attendees began holding up the fansigns that read “kajima USA ♥ JYJ,” and singing “kajima, kajima”, “geojitmal, geojitmal”, and “saranghae, saranghae” in unison with JYJ. The surreal night drew to a close, and the stunned fans shuffled out of the auditorium.
Thank you Junsu, Yoochun, and Jaejoong for sharing their energy, music, and happiness with us. The show has shot to the top of the list of the many concerts I have been to, and I assure you, there will not be a moment that you will not be stunned by their command of the stage, audience, and music. JYJ proved themselves to be true artists: ones who can play the music, not the notes.
Don’t forget to check out our gallery of fans at the San Jose show here.