Remember the days when ‘BTS’ stood for ‘back to school’? Now, the word is associated with the seven-membered wonder of the world: Korean boyband, formally known as the ‘Bantang Boys’. Like an epidemic, the band are permeating into Western culture after over five years in the making, bringing sweat and diligent artistry on their backs with their world tour for the introspective Love Yourself albums. With their first UK debut tour selling out in London in just two days, tickets being resold at an average of £1,000 and fans camping on the Underground at 3am, you would have thought Jesus himself was performing
Witnessing the entrance to the O2 upon arrival was comparable to what I imagine a One Direction concert in 2012 would have been like. I saw an orderly queue (how very British) snaking all the way from the tube station – not even for merchandise but for a
photo with a BTS Love Yourself album poster.
Not only masters of their bodies, though, they wield a crowd with visual elements, with a set list spanning a whopping 23 tracks and a concert rivalling the length of James Cameron’s Titanic
Lucky enough to have been gifted with seats at the booths, I had a prime view of not only the stage but also the venue itself. Fans
(self-named, Armies) were packed in like sardines, singing and the feverish ambiance was paramount. BTS may not stand for ‘back to school’ but perhaps other artists can take this as a lesson on putting on a performance.
Although Jungkook, the youngest member recently suffered from a minor injury and therefore had to be seated on stage, this was no hindrance to the spectacle they put on. Beautifully rendered aesthetic and artistic visuals such as flames, lights and fireworks complimented their individual features, which shone through with colourful choreography – Korean artists are known for their pin-point, perfectly sharp moves.
Not only masters of their bodies, though, they wield a crowd with visual elements, with a set list spanning a whopping 23 tracks and a concert rivalling the length of James Cameron’s Titanic – and their vocal performance was also titanic. The ‘T’ in ‘BTS’ must be synonymous with talent as they effortlessly transitioned between genres, from ballads to rap and R&B.
As the crowd swelled and swayed to Jin’s message of self-love – the emotional ‘Epiphany’ – witnessing Armies sing along in Korean was haunting. Having only been introduced to K-Pop in the last year, I began to experience a strong case of imposter syndrome.
Each pat, each hug, each interaction amongst the band members was indicative of a comradeship that the Army mirrors
Stood amongst the dedicated who have witnessed this underdog group rise against adversity, I saw a three things: a culmination of years of training and determination, the charitable acts of kindness and the brotherly blood bond – I felt like a mother would feel watching her children achieve greatness.
The simple gestures on the stage of each member; standing behind Jungkook; each pat, each hug, each interaction between themselves was indicative of a comradeship that the Army mirrors. Strangely enough, it was during an interlude that I had my own epiphany – and that during a Mexican wave aided by £57 Bluetooth light sticks.
On one hand, this was simply an opportunity to justify a hefty price tag; on the other, it was a touching moment of solidarity. People from all over the world, singing a song in a language foreign to most in fierce support of a group that inspires them to be their best selves was this epiphany.
Fans can see a reflection of themselves in this humble group. They speak to the shy person in the class, the one afraid of risks and the one we all recognise in ourselves: the dreamer
Although the screaming witnessed was not unlike the screams of murder, it was almost contagious and impossible not to feed off this infectious energy. Was I in the presence of a cult or a passionate collective? Either way, it would be an injustice to reduce them to a simple boyband with Bieber-fever fans. The Army is strong – and they’re recruiting.
Experiencing this band perform was an unparalleled and emotional voyage. The concert ended with gracious speeches before a final performance, with Jungkook breaking down in tears for being unable to perform. Their individual charisma shines through both speech and dance.
What makes them unique is that fans can see a reflection of themselves in this humble group. They speak to the shy person in the class, the one afraid of risks and the one we all recognise in ourselves: the dreamer. As these young men redefine pre-existing boundaries of masculinity and questioning the notions of a ‘pop boy band’ – a force to be reckoned with – it is easy to see what makes them idols of today.