At the beginning of our long and eventful day covering the SM Town Live World Tour in NYC, I promised myself that I would be completely honest with this recap. If the concert was a letdown, I wasn’t going to sugarcoat it; I would be objective. While a bad review would certainly be compelling to read, unfortunately for the readers (and fortunately for the 15,000 attendees), the concert turned out to be absolutely incredible. So, welcome to the favorable Soompi SM Town NYC recap, or as I like to call it, the article that proves the antis wrong!
The renowned Madison Square Garden was operating at full capacity, and even before any artists appeared, the crowds were rocking the house! Before too long, the lights went out and some familiar beats echoed through the venue. The cheers rose to fever pitch as the lights flashed back on to reveal f(x) performing “LA chA TA.” Judging by the huge smiles on their faces, the five girls were definitely happy to be there! Once they finished the song, Amber raised the mic to her face and shouted, “What’s up New Yoooooooork! How you guys feeling tonight?” She then encouraged everyone to scream as loudly as they could – of course, everyone obliged! So it was a bit hard to hear Krystal, who was trying to announce that she would be singing “Tik Tok” with her sister. In case you didn’t know, Krystal’s sister is none other than Jessica from SNSD, and “Tik Tok” refers to Ke$ha’s popular hit. Now, I am not a fan of this song, but Jessica and Krystal seriously rocked it. The group then returned and performed “Chu~”, with flawless dancing. Amber’s rapping really got people screaming. (The New York Times, also reviewing this concert, noted that Amber was the best rapper of the night and that her presence drew “frenzied screams” each time she stepped out.)
As if SM had decided that there had been enough cheering for the moment, Kangta then took the stage in a single spotlight. It was just him and his voice, no flashy effects, but trust me, it was more than enough. The crowd stilled to a mesmerized hush as he performed “Kangta Talk” in a powerful voice. After finishing to a rousing round of applause, he introduced himself in mixed English and Korean. Some props were set out and Kangta launched into a duet with f(x)’s Sulli. The romantic ballad was livened up with some comedic moments, where Kangta and Sulli found their microphones inside a mailbox and handbag, respectively. Then SHINee’s Onew came out, dressed as a pizza boy, and pretended to trip, much to the amusement of the crowd. More microphones were found inside a coat and a pizza box, but the duet ended as sweetly as it had begun, with Kangta on one knee, handing Sulli a rose.
Not wasting any time, SHINee emerged onstage to huge roars and performed “Stand By Me,” “Replay,” “Get Down,” and “Juliette.” At this point, I was forgetting to take notes because I was so amazed. Not only were the dance moves performed in perfect synchronization, but the group harmonies were breathtaking. The boys’ voices mixed to create a truly beautiful sound. During a remix-style chorus in “Replay,” they did some great dancing, but Taemin in particular stood out with his bright yellow pants and amazing skills. In “Juliette,” Jonghyun was taken into the sky on wires, and we saw the first fireworks of the night! Of course the crowd went crazy. When SHINee greeted the fans, you could tell that they were having a lot of fun and were excited to be there. Here’s something I love about SHINee: Rather than dressing in matching or coordinating outfits, these boys were all dressed in their own flashy but unique styles, such as a red leather jacket or a sleeveless jean vest. It served to highlight the individuality of each member.
(SHINee – “Stand By Me”)
A video of the SM artists, all dressed in white, flashed across the big screen. In it, they shared a message of love and support. Each artist also did the lines in sign language. These messages would appear throughout the night.
Then the stage floor opened up, and Super Junior KRY came up to sing the “Sorry Sorry” R&B remix. Although the New York Times labeled this as the night’s best performance, for some reason, hearing the song done in this style caused many fans, including myself, to laugh (in a good way, of course). SJ-KRY performed the song with the precision you’d expect before disappearing the way they came. Krystal and Key then took the stage to perform what was possibly one of my favorite performances, a cover of “My First Kiss” by 3OH!3 featuring Ke$ha. Again, not a fan of the original, but when these two performed it, it was really awesome. The screen flashed comic book-like graphics while the two interacted comically and even hid behind a dancer to pretend kiss.
Duet time was not yet over, as Super Junior’s Kyuhyun and SNSD’s Seohyun took to the stage to sing “A Way Back Into Love.” Kyuhyun was smartly dressed in a blazer and Seohyun looked angelic in white. Their voices blended beautifully and they really sold the ballad element by ending the song holding hands and resting their heads on each other. A nice moment.
Then, out of nowhere, Eunhyuk and Minho suddenly appeared only a few seats to my left! On the other side of the stadium, Key and Shindong appeared. Amazingly, the four then performed YG’s family song, “A-Yo,” with lyrics changed to suit SM. The most entertaining part was when they were singing about Shindong stealing their food. It was a funny performance, and some female fans were so shocked with the stars appearing out of nowhere in the crowd that they couldn’t stop screaming.
Then it was my turn to scream as nine girls appeared onstage, clothed in glittery costumes that reflected the lights. SNSD immediately launched into “Run Devil Run.” Of course, the dancing was amazing, but there was something else that surprised me. Don’t get me wrong, I have always considered SNSD good singers, but tonight, their voices were absolutely amazing. They were clear, loud, and powerful, with great vocal tone. Seohyun in particular sounded stunning. She displayed a special power that I don’t think I’ve ever heard from her.
They then took turns greeting the fans in English – or trying to. Seohyun fumbled with her otherwise fluid English, saying, “I’m honored to be… I’m honored to be…” Tiffany came to the rescue, equipping her with the word, “Here!” Ever supportive, she encouraged everyone to applaud for embarrassed Seohyun anyway, as “she practiced that a hundred times!” Of course, everyone laughed and cheered her on. Jessica and Tiffany, the native English speakers, were at the end of the line. Tiffany did a great job interacting with the crowd and building up excitement, and Jessica announced the release of their US maxi single on November 19. SNSD broke immediately into the “Kissing You” remix, getting the crowd to dance. To the largest cheer of the night (so far), they went straight into “Oh!” Confetti was showered onto the crowd, making the popular “Oh!” dance even more festive.
Super Junior appeared and went straight into “Bonamana.” I don’t need to tell you how amazing they are live, but I have to say this: they dance freakishly in sync. Their dancing was so perfect, I almost wanted to see someone miss a move because it was just that inhuman. It was sad to see a few members missing, but it didn’t affect the performance at all. Every move and note was hit as it should be and I was clapping as hard as I could, having been turned from a casual fan into a full-fledged ELF. It was the best Super Junior live performance I have seen yet. The group then introduced themselves to the crowd, but it was nearly impossible to hear them over all the screaming. They were a little out of breath and I think they were taken aback by the response. I am not sure what they expected from New York, but they certainly were shown how popular they are. They then introduced, to more screams, Zhou Mi and Henry before launching into Super Junior M’s “Perfection.”
Continuing what would be a consistent switch between Super Junior’s and SNSD’s sets, the latter returned to perform the most uplifting segment of the concert: “Ha Ha Ha Song” and “Himnae (Way to Go!)” It was the first time I saw a lot of people dancing out of their seats. Super Junior quickly returned with “Miracle” and the remix of “Dancing Out.” For both songs, they were taking scarves from fans, wearing them, and reading messages on hearts. Yesung even took cameras from fans, lay down onstage, and took a picture backwards of him with the fans. Silver streamers were fired over the crowd and a few girls started to cry. Super Junior definitely knows how to make an impression!
Then came the part of the concert I was expecting to be good, but never anticipated how amazing it actually would be. In the darkness, a beautiful female voice slowly floated across the crowd. To huge collective screams, BoA emerged to sing “Look Who’s Talking.” She performed with a fire that could only come from years of experience mixed with the excitement of performing in Madison Square Garden. After the song, she thanked all the fans for the love and support that made her career possible. While she was evidently very humbled to perform at Madison Square Garden, she broke up the seriousness of the moment by saying, “I just realized my shorts are really short… daaaaaammmn!” She then performed “I Did It For Love” and took her already amazing dancing to another level. To many a scream, Key came out and sang with her. I am not sure if Key is brave, or if they’re good friends in real life, but they got very close while singing, to many an envious male and female fan alike!
Clad all in white, SNSD returned to the stage to perform “Genie.” Tiffany rapped before the last chorus and got a big cheer. Fireworks went off to finish the song in style. Also in white, Super Junior ran in to perform “Sorry Sorry.” Once again, the group didn’t miss a step or a note. It made me think that songs are made even more exciting when the groups go above and beyond to attempt perfection. I could watch them with no sound, just dancing, and still be wide-eyed in amazement.
SHINee returned to the stage, Jonghyun in another metal-studded jacket (he certainly likes that style)! To lots of stage fire, the group performed “Ring Ding Dong.” The group harmonies were just wow! Before the end of the song, they broke it down with an amazing dancing section. Taemin started with a solo dancing part, moving his body in ways only a pro can. The group then joined in to show that SHINee has more than one awesome dancer. After this performance, I wasn’t sure if any act could get the crowd as excited, but as f(x) took the stage, the reaction from the crowd was even more intense. This reaction was well deserved, as the girls performed a powerful rendition of “Nu Abo” and impressed everyone with some very strong dancing. Each move was executed with a power you don’t usually see from girl groups. I liked f(x) before this performance, and now they are one of my favorites. It felt like Luna hit notes with more power and pitch than on their recordings, and to be honest, hearing it live sounded ten times better than on the recording. f(x) walked off looking very satisfied as they were cheered and clapped off stage, so I thought again, “How can SM top this?”
Well, can you say “Mr. Simple?” Super Junior’s dancing had a power and passion that seemed to overtake them. Their smiles were replaced by steel-hard looks of concentration as they moved not as individuals, but as one unit. Then they launched into “Don’t Don” and the whole place was littered with giant air jets, strobes to illuminate their powerful dancing, and fireworks. But that wasn’t all. Coming from the stage in the crowd was a drummer, Zhou Mi, and Henry playing the violin. At this point, members of Super Junior were on wires flying above the crowd. If you think this sounds awesome, you’re right. It really was.
(Super Junior – “Mr. Simple”)
The pace of the concert seemed to be quickening. f(x) went straight on to perform “Hot Summer.” Amber certainly stood out with her rapping and cute tartan hat, and the group sang with such strength. There is a reason why this song is so popular. It’s so well suited to their voices. Then the familiar notes to SNSD’s “Hoot” rang out, and I jumped to my feet cheering. The performance was as amazing as expected, and it affirmed the fact that SNSD are as amazing live as in their recordings. The dance was fun to watch and Taeyeon’s voice was explosive. Next, SHINee returned to the stage for “Ready Or Not” and “Amigo.” They were jumping around like crazy and dancing with huge passion. Fireworks went off and poor Onew actually flinched at the loud fireworks near him. After that, Jonghyun and Taemin were slowly brought over the crowd, on wires, to meet the rest of the group on the main stage.
“B-Bring the boys out!” When the English version of SNSD’s new song started up, we were shown a side of the group we haven’t seen before. Although they’ve strayed away from their cutesy image before, this time, they introduced a new mature sound with an edgy twist. The dance breakdown was the perfect chance for the whole group to show their talents. They let it all go and gave it their all, and when the song came to an end, the arena erupted in thunderous applause and cheering.
(SNSD – “The Boys”)
But nothing could have prepared me for what came next. I have not watched any previous SM Town Live shows, so although what happened next would be familiar to some, it was new to me. The lights came up on Onew and music was softly piped in. I lost it at first, thinking “Is this Nessun Dorma?” I was not losing it! Onew was singing a very famous operatic aria, and not only did he sing it well, he sang it with all the power you’d expect from an opera singer. If anyone ever tells you Onew cannot sing, direct them to YouTube and have them do a search. I was captivated, and he hit the final note, loud, clear, and with the strength of a true singer. The overall crowd reaction was so powerful it was most likely heard in space. Luciano Pavarotti sang the very same song at Madison Square Garden the year I was born, 1987, and Onew proved last night he is much more than a singer, he is a superstar.
At this point, I was restless. The concert was getting better and better, each group giving even more each time. I couldn’t think of what could follow Onew’s heart-stopping singing. So, why follow it with any singing at all? Instead, Taemin, Eunhyuk, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Yoona, and Luna treated us to a mind-blowing dance demonstration. The boys started, the girls took over, and then they all joined for a Michael Jackson song. All of them danced their hearts out, and Hyoyeon in particular proved why people constantly talk about her dancing. She was on point, letting loose completely. She honestly made me want to take up professional dancing.
BoA then launched straight into “Eat You Up,” “Copy and Paste,” and “Energetic.” Watching BoA perform live will show you that she has every ingredient possessed by any worldwide star. She sings with power and conviction, and dances with a daring mixture of masculine and feminine moves. During the three songs I even saw parents jumping up and getting excited. BoA thanked everyone again and said that she checked her Twitter backstage while getting changed and was thankful for messages she had already received from fans. She also said that she couldn’t believe that it’s already been ten years, and that she still loves performing for the fans. After the show, I heard a lot of talk of how amazing BoA was – she earned that praise. Those who didn’t know her music had their eyes opened.
The show so far had been heavenly, so wasn’t it about time we saw the “Gods of the East?” Out of the crowd, on wires, came soaring two men who received such loud screams that I wanted to cover my ears. DBSK had arrived. As they slowly traveled across the heads of fans and were taken to the main stage, the anticipation built up to an intolerable level. Changmin and Yunho threw their arms up sharply and burst into powerful dance moves with a crowd-pleasing medley of “The Way You Are” and “Mirotic.” Although the back dancers were amazing, these two men really stood out. They then performed “Maximum” and “Before U Go.” DBSK’s dancing was almost violent, while somehow managing to retain an unusual grace. They clearly spent a long time working on their dancing, and were shining more than ever. Oh, and their voices? Well, why bother explaining? You know how good their voices are. They tried to greet the fans, but it was difficult. Not only were they catching their breath from three consecutive songs with constant dancing, but the screaming also reached an ear-splitting level. Changmin started to speak in English, but his voice was drowned out by the sounds of thousands of fans screaming. He put a finger to his lips playfully, to no avail; soon afterward the duo gave up and launched into one of their biggest hits, “Keep Your Head Down.” They threw everything into the song. You must see them live if you ever have the chance, as videos don’t do their performance justice. Yunho’s voice is amazing, his rapping has that crisp edge to it, and when Changmin hit those high notes, it gave me goosebumps.
(DBSK’s “Keep Your Head Down”)
f(x) came onto the stage to perform “Danger” and the screaming didn’t decrease. They had big smiles on their faces, as if they knew they had made it. We all knew of the problems between fandoms and I actually expected that after DBSK, no one would receive as loud cheers, but I was wrong. f(x) gave the performance of a lifetime, fired up from the fan reactions. Light sticks of all colors, from all fandoms, were waving with as much passion as ever. It warmed my heart, after reading about the negativity of fans to groups they don’t support, to see everyone screaming for f(x). The girls went wild, they screamed out their lyrics, and as the song ended you could see a look on their faces that made my heart want to skip. It seemed that they looked out to the crowd and realized that it doesn’t matter where they are, there are people everywhere who will throw all reservations to the wind and scream their hearts out for them.
(f(x) – “Danger”)
The arena got dark. Flames licked across the big screen and the word “Lucifer” appeared. At this point, SHINee appeared, looking solemn. It was their last group performance of the night and they left a lasting impression. I cannot possibly express how amazing the dance looked live. The song broke down before Minho’s rap part and they were slowly lifted into the air, wearing big metal gauntlets on their hands, which turned out to have laser pointers on them. They flew around shining the laser pointers, avoiding people’s eyes, but Key still managed to get me in the eye… and I didn’t mind! They finished the song and were lowered into the crowd, and the lights went out to cheering.
For SNSD’s final turn, what better song to finish with than the insanely popular “Gee”? People were screaming and one man near me was literally slack-jawed. I think it’s safe to say that he was an SNSD fan. As the girls brought out a stellar performance, the cameras showed each member, and each time the crowd cheered equally for each member. All nine were shown how much their fans love them.
Then Super Junior performed “U,” decked out in American flag clothing, whipping up the crowd into a frenzy, singing and dancing with reckless abandon. I felt like they weren’t even doing planned dance moves, instead just letting the energy of the room cause them to jump around, physically showing their appreciation with a performance worthy of their last song.
DBSK’s final song was “Rising Sun.” I thought I knew DBSK until I saw them live. They have a stunning presence. As they performed the song with the perfection of veterans, they looked out at the crowd with passionate eyes. They might have performed these songs before, they might have been performing for a while, but you just knew that they were still humbled.
I thought was going to be the end, but I was so happy that there was one more performance, one that I was dying to see live. The fabulous diva BoA came back on stage with a look of pride and performed “Hurricane Venus.” The album of the same name marked her tenth anniversary as a performer. This song showed that after ten years, this is still the beginning for BoA. She is constantly evolving, improving, and opening her heart to her fans.
(BoA – “Hurricane Venus”)
To finish the concert, what else could SM Town do aside from having all the artists come onstage and sing together? Everyone in the arena was showered with confetti as they sang a soaring rendition of “Hope” by H.O.T. I am sure it was a very proud moment for Kangta. Most of the crowd by now was standing while waving, screaming, and even crying. I knew at that point I would have nothing negative to say about the concert and that it was a memory I would cherish for the rest of my life. I also knew that I needed a SM Town World Tour t-shirt if it was the last thing I did! SM really made sure that fans had more than just a show, that it was an experience. In conclusion, I feel blessed to have seen it live – it’s a show I will never forget!